The Outlook for the Global Insurance Market Is Starting to Pick Up

Rupert is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Editor's Note: The initial article incorrectly identifies Prudential plc as Prudential Financial. This version has been corrected and Motley Fool apologizes for the error.

According to Munich RE, the primary insurance market is finally recovering from 2008 despite the slow economic recovery throughout the world.

Within the insurance giants' short term insurance market outlook published this month, it was noted that the volume of primary insurance premiums written is expected to grow 2.8% in real terms during 2013, and 3.6% in real terms during 2014, after growth of only 1% during 2012. Unsurprisingly, the majority of this growth is coming from emerging markets and North America, while growth in the European market continues to be held back by economic contraction.

Munich RE expects primary life insurance premiums written to grow by 2.5% during 2013 and 3.6% during 2014 after a contraction of -0.4% during 2012. The company also expects primary property and casualty insurance premiums written to grow 3.4% in 2013 and 3.6% in 2014.

The majority of this growth in primary insurance is expected to come from emerging markets, as I have already stated. Within primary property and casualty insurance, premiums in Eastern Europe and Latin America are expected to grow around 6%, and premiums in emerging economies such as China and India could expand by as much as 10% or more.

However, the life insurance market is expected to grow even faster during the next two years. Premiums written are expected to grow between 10-15% in some Asian and Latin American countries. Although, this rate of growth is slower than 2012 when the volume of premiums written grew 18%. Premiums from Africa and the Middle East are also expected to grow faster than average, but these markets continue to represent a very small portion of the global market (approximately 2.5%).

On a longer term, compounded-annual-growth-rate basis, property and casualty insurance premiums are expected to rise about 10.2% annually from now until 2020 in emerging Asian economies and about 6% in Eastern Europe and African economies. Meanwhile, life insurance premiums are expected to rise 14% on average annually in emerging Asian economies and 12% annually in Latin American economies from now until 2020.

Which company will benefit the most from these trends?

The best play for this trend, in my opinion is Prudential plc (NYSE: PUK). The company has the most exposure to fast growing Asian economies as well as exposure to the US and UK markets, which are also set grow, although not as fast as Asia

Prudential's income split:

Region

Net Income

Percentage of Total 

Asia

$989

27.20%

Rest of the World

$599

16.50%

United Kingdom

$1,158

31.80%

United States

$894

24.60%

Figures in millions of $US

After the UK, Asia is Prudential's biggest market and, as shown above, the company generates slightly more than 27% of its income from the region. 

As well as the fast growing insurance markets in Asia, Prudential also generates more than 30% of its income in the UK. While the UK is technically in Europe, where the insurance market is stagnating, Prudential is set to benefit for government policy shifts and an aging population in the UK. 

In particular, in addition to insurance, Prudential also provides pension products, and like most eurozone governments, the UK is cutting hard to return to fiscal stability; part of this is a structural shift away from state pensions into privately controlled pension schemes. This shift in policy is driving funds toward Prudential and should lead to even wider profit margins for the company.

On the other hand...

Two companies that are not set to benefit  from the insurance market growth in Asia are Travelers Companies and American International Group (NYSE: AIG)

AIG and Travelers both make the majority of their income in North America, or more specifically the US.

Revenue split:

Region

Travelers

AIG

US

96.5%

70.3%

Asia Pacific

0%

11.7%

Rest of world

3.5%

18%

Travelers has almost no exposure to the global insurance market outside of the US. AIG does have some exposure to the Asian insurance market, but once again the company makes more than 70% of its income in the US.

Even though AIG and Travelers have limited international exposure, there is still potential for them to grow as the primary insurance market in the US gains traction and starts to grow in-line with the rest of the economy.

Meanwhile, for investors who are seeking more risk

Genworth Financial's (NYSE: GNW) main business is mortgage insurance, but the rest of the company's revenue comes from wealth management services such as life and health insurance. Q1 of this year was the first quarter since 2007 that Genworth's U.S. mortgage insurance division actually turned a profit since 2007. In addition, the number of delinquent US mortgages on Genworth's book fell 21% from April 2012 to April this year.

Having said that, mortgage reinsurance for US properties only accounts for 12.5% of Genworth's total revenues; 46% of the company's revenue comes from the insurance of international mortgages, a division that has remained relatively profitable during the past five years.

Genworth Financial revenue split:

Division

Revenue

Percentage of total

International Mortgage Insurance

$737

46.10%

International Protection

$58

3.60%

Runoff

$81

5.10%

U.S. Life Insurance

$417

26.10%

U.S.Mortgage Insurance

$200

12.50%

Wealth Management

$107

6.70%

Figures in million of $US

Life insurance accounts for 26% of Genworth's revenues as of 2012, so the company is well placed to take advantage of growth in the life insurance market and housing market recovery over the next few years.

Conclusion

The primary insurance market is set to boom in emerging economies over the next few years, and the company that will benefit the most will be Prudential plc. Travelers and AIG will benefit from growth in the general market for insurance, but I do not expect their growth to be as rapid as that of Prudential.

Genworth on the other hand, offers a mix of exposure to the growing insurance market and the housing recovery, albeit with more risk. But more risk = more reward, and Genworth is my personal choice.

AIG's stock has been a favorite among hedge fund managers. Have they identified the next big multi-bagger, or are the risks facing the insurance giant still too great? In The Motley Fool’s premium report on AIG, Financials Bureau Chief Matt Koppenheffer breaks down the key issues that you need to know about if you want to successfully invest in this stock. Simply click here now to claim your copy, and you'll also receive a full year of key updates and expert analysis as news continues to develop.


Fool contributor Rupert Hargreaves owns shares of Genworth Financial. The Motley Fool recommends American International Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of American International Group and has the following options: Long Jan 2014 $25 Calls on American International Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

blog comments powered by Disqus

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure