Sandy costs Zurich Insurance $700 million

Superstorm Sandy hit the Zurich Insurance Group with claims worth about $700 million, the Swiss insurer said on Monday.

"It's difficult to say exactly how much the final amount will be," Sylvia Gaeumann, a spokeswoman for the company told AFP.

"It could be a bit higher or a bit lower (but) usually our estimates are good."

She explained that the actual amount of claims was higher than $700 million, but that the insurer was partially shielded through reinsurance coverage, which had kicked in.

This however meant that Zurich Insurance Group would need to renew its reinsurance contract, which was expected to cost an extra $58 million before tax, the company said.

The estimated costs would be recorded in the company's fourth quarter and full-year results, which will be published on February 14, it said in a statement.

Zurich Insurance Group was not hit so hard as its compatriot Swiss Re, which late last month put its exposure to Sandy at about $900 million.

Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama asked for $60.4 billion in emergency funds to repair devastation after the storm, which flooded the New York subway system and knocked out electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.

The floods and wind also destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, and created chaos in fuel supplies after refineries and gas stations were damaged.

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Swiss Re says Softbank stake no more than 10%

Swiss reinsurance giant Swiss Re said on Wednesday talks were ongoing with SoftBank, but that the Japanese group would likely take a stake of no more than 10 percent, much less than earlier expectations.

Swiss Re says Softbank stake no more than 10%
File photo: AFP

Swiss Re announced that it was in talks the tech-investor in February, but had never mentioned the size of the possible stake.

Financial news media including Bloomberg had cited sources familiar with the talks as saying the Japanese firm could take up to a third of Swiss Re for more than $10 billion (€8.2 billion).

At current share prices, a 10 percent stake in Swiss Re is worth approximately $3.5 billion.

In a statement released on Wednesday as the reinsurer holds an investor day, Swiss Re confirmed “that negotiations are still ongoing in respect of a minority investment by SoftBank in Swiss Re, currently expected not to exceed 10 percent of Swiss Re's share capital.”

The announcement of the talks had surprised investors, as SoftBank usually invests in technology ventures.

The company is making a concerted effort to invest in technology firms through its $100-billion Vision Fund investment vehicle.

Last year it bought a 15-percent stake in ride-sharing giant Uber — which sources said was worth $7.7 billion – while it also has piled cash into Uber's Chinese rival Didi Chuxing.

It is also the top investor in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

However, certain financial investors had noted that Swiss Re could be of interest to SoftBank as it has developed an expertise in new technologies to better understand the risks that firms active in the sector face.

Swiss Re shares fell 2.5 percent in early trading on Wednesday to 94.00 Swiss francs, while the Swiss market was down 0.3 percent overall.