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Alpen Capital projects positive growth outlook for the UAE Insurance Industry

Dubai, 2nd August, 2009

Alpen Capital (ME) Limited announced the publication of its UAE Insurance Industry Report as a part of its Equity Research services. Alpen Capital launched its Equity Research services at the beginning of this year to complement its existing Corporate Advisory services, including Capital Markets, Debt Syndication, Mergers & Acquisitions and Project Advisory. Regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority and based at the DIFC, Alpen Capital is the associate and investment banking arm of Bank Sarasin-Alpen (ME) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Swiss private bank Sarasin & Co Ltd.

The UAE Insurance Industry report is the third report published by Alpen Capital this year. Previous reports focused on the GCC Retail and Cement industries respectively.

The UAE Insurance Industry responds to economic slowdown

"One of the main aims of our equity research services is to provide objective overviews of various industries in the GCC and projections in terms of performance. The UAE Insurance Industry report talks about the current status of the UAE insurance industry and how the economic slowdown has impacted the business." says Sanjay Vig, Managing Director at Alpen Capital.

Although weakness in new car and home sales and construction project delays and cancellation will result in weaker growth in 2009 than over the past five years, the sector is expected to resume double digit growth rates in 2010 to 2012. The key factors underpinning the strong growth potential are low insurance penetration, relatively strong economic growth and favorable demographics.

The UAE insurance companies are responding to slower growth in 2009 by ceding less business to reinsurance companies. There was a clear deceleration in gross premium growth in 2009, down from about 15% in the first quarter to only 1% in the second quarter. Meanwhile, net premium income (after reinsurance and provisions for unearned premiums) continued to grow at about 20% in the first and second quarters. This suggests the UAE insurers are retaining a greater part of risks that they have traditionally ceded to reinsurance companies due to concentration risk, technical complexity or lack of historic claims data." says Tommy Trask, Executive Director and Head of Equity Research services at Alpen Capital.

The UAE insurers continue to perform very well in terms of underwriting performance, although rapid growth, increasing competition and cross-subsidization of unprofitable lines has resulted in gradually weaker underwriting margins over the last three years. Most of the UAE insurance companies are closely held and their stocks are inherently illiquid. We feel there is potential to unlock significant value by addressing relatively simple shortcomings in terms of investment strategy and transparency.

Conventional insurance continues to dominate the UAE market, but more and more players are also establishing Islamic compliant units. We favor players that are present in both segments, given the somewhat higher growth rates for Islamic insurance.

To access a copy of the report, click here.