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September 19, 2016 | 10:25 | Dubai
Insurance markets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have grown significantly over the past decade. MENA insurance premiums surpassed USD 52 billion during 2015, with the largest markets remaining Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Iran, according to a report by insurance rating firm A.M. Best. Notable growth in insurable risk has stemmed from a combination of increased insurance penetration, historically high oil prices in the years leading up to 2014, the introduction of compulsory covers for medical healthcare and liability business classes, as well as infrastructure development and increased commercial activity.
The Table shows the largest MENA reinsurers ranked by gross written premiums (GWP). Despite the growing presence and capacity provided by regional reinsurers, their profiles typically remain small compared with international peers. The vast majority of ceded premiums are placed in the international market, with limited risk retained by primary insurers and regional reinsurers. However, A.M. Best notes that there has been notable growth for some MENA reinsurers over recent years, with Qatar Re in particular having reported a doubling of its premium base during 2015, ranking it as number 35 amongst the top 50 global reinsurers. Despite this, those reinsurers exhibiting elevated growth have typically achieved this by tapping global reinsurance markets as opposed to it arising from the region.
Many MENA markets are also perceived to have relatively benign exposure to natural catastrophe events, particularly for risks emanating from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, the report noted. This enables reinsurers to establish geographically diverse underwriting portfolios without encountering significant earnings volatility driven by natural catastrophe exposure. This is attractive for domestic reinsurers, as well as foreign reinsurers looking to complement their existing portfolios with less catastrophe-prone business.