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New Shanghai hub will allow Lloyd's to assess Chinese demand
Source:  Hits:1608  Date:2012-10-23
 The august Lloyd's of London has quietly set up a hub in Shanghai, where some of its very private syndicates working in small booths can figure out specialty insurance services that are in growing demand in China.

Now, they are about to step into the limelight. Heightening awareness of corporate governance has forced many mainland enterprises to seek cover for risks they ignored or glossed over during the past period of breakneck growth.

Increased investment in politically risky regions in the Middle East and Africa also exposed mainland enterprises to unfamiliar risks.

The Shanghai government, keen on turning the city into an international financial center, passed laws that allow the syndicates to do direct insurance business, which they had been barred from in the past.

A total of 13 State-owned enterprises were contracted for 50 projects worth $18.8 billion in Libya before the war started in 2011. However, just 5.6 percent of these projects - covering infrastructure, telecommunications, real estate and petroleum - were insured.

It is even harder for private companies to get insurance in less stable countries.

Many Chinese companies are going to Africa, the Middle East or the Caribbean to do business. Lloyd's expertise in risk assessment and setting premiums can help them, said John Nelson, chairman of Lloyd's.

The amount of business Lloyd's does in China amounts to about $300 million.

quickly," said Nelson.

Although its main business in China remains in reinsurance services, the company got a license for direct insurance services from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission in 2010 and started to run a direct insurance business.

The GDP growth forecast by the OECD for the United States this year was just 2.4 percent, while a contraction of 0.1 percent was predicted for the eurozone.

But this does not necessarily mean that the international insurance community should brace itself for a difficult period because China, by contrast despite early signs of a slowdown - was forecast to enjoy GDP growth of 8.2 percent, Nelson said. He added that the GDP forecast for India was 7.1 percent and for Latin America 4.1 percent.

"We expect our business growth rates to surpass the GDP growth rate in these countries," he said.

"China is an extraordinary insurance market in terms of its potential and, specifically, the extremely low levels of insurance penetration," he added.

The Sichuan earthquake in southwestern China in 2008 had caused an economic loss of $125 billion, of which just $0.33 billion was covered by insurance.

"China is going through fast development and has many huge infrastructure projects underway," said Nelson.

Faced with big disasters like the earthquake, or infrastructure construction, China is unique in that it has the capital resources to meet this sort of sudden economic shock.

But as China develops its infrastructure, and as asset prices rise, making the costs of rebuilding higher, it will need a new model of risk transfer, and that will, given the scale of risks faced here, involve the international insurance community.

Lloyd's is keen to get involved, based on its expertise in writing risks in energy, aviation, space and infrastructure needs, Nelson said.

Before China was admitted to the World Trade Organization, there was concern that foreign insurers might flood the market and take up a large share. However, the market share occupied by foreign insurers remains quite small.

By May 2011, 47 foreign insurers were operating in China, but their market share accounts for only 2.8 percent.

"One of the major challenges is attracting China's quality insurance carriers to the Lloyd's market," Nelson said.

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