Saudi insurance sector eyes more mergers and acquisitions

Saudi insurance sector eyes more mergers and acquisitions
Analysts said the Saudi insurance market is set to witness consolidation with mergers and acquisitions (M&A) gaining pace during 2021. (Social media)
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Updated 17 April 2021

Saudi insurance sector eyes more mergers and acquisitions

Saudi insurance sector eyes more mergers and acquisitions
  • Government assistance shielded sector from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic’s impact

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s insurance sector closed the financial year 2020 on a high note with the aggregate net profit of local insurance firms, except for the Saudi Indian Company for Cooperative Insurance, rising to SR1.443 billion ($0.38 billion) in Q4, an increase of 47 percent year-on-year, according to data compiled by the financial news service Argaam.

There were 13 insurers recording higher profits in 2020, led by the Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co., which surged 1,081 percent, the Saudi Arabian Cooperative Insurance Co., which increased 545 percent, and the Gulf General Cooperative Insurance Co. which saw net income up 397 percent.

The sector finished out the tough year on a high note mainly thanks to government support. 

KPMG said while the pandemic triggered disruption for most industries, the Saudi government intervened and provided relief by opting to pay for the treatment of all COVID-19 patients. 

The audit, tax and advisory services firm found that the cumulative net profit after zakat and tax touched a high of SR1.32 billion in the first nine months of 2020, an increase of 96.1 percent year-on-year. Argaam’s figures also found that the total gross written premiums (GWPs) of Saudi-listed insurance companies increased by 3 percent year-on-year to SR38.28 billion in 2020. 

There were 18 insurance firms out of 29 reporting an increase in GWPs last year, led by Aljazira Takaful Taawuni Co., which was up 80 percent year-on-year. 

Saudi insurers reported SR23.5 billion in net claims last year, down from SR24.7 billion a year previously. Net incurred claims accounted for around 76 percent of GWPs in 2020, the data showed.

Analysts said the Saudi insurance market was set to witness consolidation with mergers and acquisitions (M&A) gaining pace during 2021.  The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) in January reiterated the need for insurance companies to look at M&A deals since the sector was a key driver of the Kingdom’s economy and a pillar of the Financial Sector Development Program, one of 12 executive programs launched by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs to achieve the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Kingdom’s insurance sector closed the financial year 2020 on a high note with the aggregate net profit of local insurance firms, except for the Saudi Indian Company for Cooperative Insurance, rising to SR1.443 billion($0.38 billion) in Q4.

• The total gross written premiums (GWPs) of Saudi-listed insurance companies increased by 3 percent year-on-year to SR38.28 billion in 2020.

• Saudi insurers reported SR23.5 billion in net claims last year, down from SR24.7 billion a year previously.

The recent mergers between insurance firms were positive indications that the central bank’s plans for the sector were moving in the right direction, said SAMA Gov. Fahad Al-Mubarak during the honoring of Aljazira Takaful Taawuni Co. and Solidarity Saudi Takaful Co. following their merger.

SAMA will continue to encourage insurance companies to look at potential mergers in order to achieve the goals set out as part of the Vision 2030 programs, Al-Mubarak said. 

The sector recently witnessed a number of agreements and mergers, including between Walaa Cooperative Insurance Co. and Metlife AIG ANB Cooperative Insurance Co., and between Al-Ahlia Insurance and Gulf Union National.

Talal Bahafi is chief market officer at Marsh Saudi Arabia, which is part of the global financial services group Marsh & McLennan. He said the Kingdom’s insurance sector was likely to see more consolidation in 2021, driven by insurers looking to streamline costs, boost efficiency and increase optimization.

“The last 12 months have brought about significant changes to the insurance market in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), in terms of capacity and pricing,” Bahafi told Arab News. “We expect these conditions to persist throughout 2021 and for organizations to continue to face more challenging trading conditions. It is important for organizations to adapt to these shifts by renewing their focus on building resiliency and rethinking their risk management strategies. This will, in turn, ensure they have an insurance program in place which matches the risk appetite of their business.” The Clyde & Co Insurance Growth Report 2021 said the Middle East insurance sector would see increased M&A activity this year.

According to the law firm’s report, M&A insurance deals in the Middle East and Africa rose by 166.7 percent in 2020, the biggest growth across all regions.

S&P Global Ratings, in its latest report on the GCC insurance sector, said it expected to see growth in Saudi Arabia due to regulatory initiatives. 

In the GCC it expected its ratings on insurers to remain broadly stable in 2021 owing to robust capital buffers, despite ongoing economic uncertainty relating to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the rate of Saudization in the insurance sector has reached 75 percent compared to 35 to 40 percent in the past, according to Abdullah Al-Tuwaijri, SAMA’s director general of insurance supervision.

Al-Tuwaijri, who made the remarks during a session of the Economic Growth Forum, added that the high Saudization rate indicated the sector was capable of creating more job opportunities for citizens.


Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack
Updated 31 min 54 sec ago

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack
  • Colonial moves 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline
  • DarkSide is known for deploying ransomware

NEW YORK: Colonial Pipeline, top US fuel pipeline operator, continued work on Sunday to recover from a ransomware cyberattack that forced it to shut down on Friday and sparked worries of a spike in retail gasoline prices.
The incident is one of the most disruptive digital ransom operations ever reported and has prompted calls from American lawmakers to tighten up protection for critical US energy infrastructure against hackers.
Colonial said on Saturday it was “continuing to monitor the impact of this temporary service halt” and to work to restore service. It did not give an estimate for a restart date.
Colonial moves 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline and other fuels from refiners on the Gulf Coast to consumers in the eastern and southern United States. It also serves some of the largest US airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic.
Retail fuel experts including the American Automobile Association said an outage lasting several days could have significant impacts on regional fuel supplies, particularly in the US Southeast.
While the US government investigation is in early stages, a former US official and two industry sources said the hackers are likely a professional cybercriminal group and that a group dubbed “DarkSide” was likely among the potential suspects.
DarkSide is known for deploying ransomware and extorting victims while avoiding targets in post-Soviet states. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to lock down systems by encrypting data and demanding payment to regain access.
Cybersecurity firm FireEye has also been brought in to respond to the attack, according to the two industry sources. FireEye declined to comment. Colonial said late on Saturday it was working with a “leading, third-party cybersecurity firm,” but did not name the firm.
Bloomberg News, citing people familiar with the matter, reported late on Saturday that the hackers are part of DarkSide and took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network on Thursday ahead of the pipeline shutdown.
Colonial did not immediately reply to an email from Reuters seeking comment outside usual US business hours.
US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident on Saturday morning, a White House spokesperson said, adding that the government was working to try to help the company restore operations and prevent supply disruptions.
The privately held, Georgia-based company is owned by CDPQ Colonial Partners, IFM (US) Colonial Pipeline 2, KKR-Keats Pipeline Investors, Koch Capital Investments Company and Shell Midstream Operating.
Gasoline futures and diesel futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose on Friday after the outage was reported. In previous Colonial outages, retail prices have risen substantially, if briefly.
Oil refining companies contacted by Reuters on Saturday said their operations had not yet been impacted.


Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo

Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo
Updated 09 May 2021

Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo

Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo
  • It comes as some big airlines are faced with competing forces of supply and demand in the cabins and bellies of their aircraft

DUBAI: Emirates has converted 16 passenger planes to transport cargo and is also using some of its fleet to carry goods in the cabin.
Nabil Sultan, Emirates SkyCargo divisional senior vice president said the airline was studying its capacity, in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Sunday.
“So far we have converted 16 passenger aircraft to fully cargo flights,” he said. “We also use the remaining fleet, where we have put cargo in the main cabin, especially to move essential PPE goods and various other medical material.”
It comes as some big airlines are faced with competing forces of supply and demand in the cabins and bellies of their aircraft — as cargo volumes accelerate while at the same time passenger numbers remain subdued.
Earlier on Sunday Emirates said it would begin shipping aid for free into India to help fight the coronavirus.
It comes as air cargo demand has risen to its highest recorded level ever in the wake of the pandemic.


Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data

Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data
Updated 09 May 2021

Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data

Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data
  • The group started publishing its own inflation data in September amid claims from opposition parties that the official agency is under-reporting price increases

DUBAI: Turkey’s statistics agency filed a criminal complaint against a group of local researchers publishing alternative inflation data, Bloomberg reported.

The government body demanded ENAGroup, an independent inflation research group, be fined for “purposefully defaming” the official statistics institution and “misguiding public opinion,” according to documents seen by the news wire.
The group started publishing its own inflation data in September amid claims from opposition parties that the official agency is under-reporting price increases, Bloomberg said
ENAGroup’s inflation figures are higher than the official data. Its consumer price index rose 2.62 percent in April from a month earlier, more than double the 1.1 percent reported by the official agency. The group reported an annual inflation rate of 36.7 percent for 2020, Bloomberg reported.
Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan said that the statistics agency filed a complaint against a group “for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic.”
The group aims to “damage and discredit the Turkish Statistical Institute” by spreading misleading data that are used by opposition parties, Elvan said.

 


Abu Dhabi's ADNOC said to invite banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for drilling unit IPO

Abu Dhabi's ADNOC said to invite banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for drilling unit IPO
Updated 09 May 2021

Abu Dhabi's ADNOC said to invite banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for drilling unit IPO

Abu Dhabi's ADNOC said to invite banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for drilling unit IPO
  • ADNOC is planning to take the unit public in the third quarter
  • ADNOC Drilling owns and operates a large fleet of rigs

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) has invited investment banks to pitch for bookrunner roles for the initial public offering of its drilling unit, two sources told Reuters on Sunday.
The oil giant invited a handful of international and local banks to take part in the process of the public share sale of ADNOC Drilling, which is due later this month, they said.
ADNOC is planning to take the unit public in the third quarter, they added. One of the sources previously said ADNOC could raise at least $1 billion from the share sale.
ADNOC, which supplies nearly 3 percent of global oil demand, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters on Sunday.
ADNOC Drilling owns and operates a large fleet of rigs, including 75 onshore rigs, 20 offshore jackup rigs, and 11 well water rigs, according to its website.
The drilling business is critical for ADNOC’s upstream operations, helping the oil company reach its production targets.
ADNOC Chief Executive Sultan Al-Jaber has been chief architect of the transformation strategy the company embarked on more than four years ago, building an investment team to monetise assets and raise funds from international private equity groups.
It is also planning to float Fertiglobe, a fertiliser joint venture with Dutch-listed chemical producer OCI later this year.


Google-backed Firefly comes to the Middle East after Abu Dhabi deal

Google-backed Firefly comes to the Middle East after Abu Dhabi deal
Updated 09 May 2021

Google-backed Firefly comes to the Middle East after Abu Dhabi deal

Google-backed Firefly comes to the Middle East after Abu Dhabi deal
  • IHC-owned Multiply Marketing Consultancy (MMC) acquired the minority stake in the company

DUBAI: A unit of Abu Dhabi’s International Holding Company (IHC) has acquired a stake in Google-backed Firefly, which provides street-level digital media on taxis and rideshare vehicles.
IHC-owned Multiply Marketing Consultancy (MMC) acquired the minority stake in the company, it said in a stock exchange filing on Sunday.
Firefly operates across major US cities, working with major taxi and rideshare companies to install advertising displays atop their vehicles.
The proprietary screens feature content based on location, and are Internet-enabled. The platform attracts millions of impressions per month, according to a statement.
The deal will expand the company’s operations in the Middle East, and will set up an office within MMC’s Abu Dhabi headquarters.
“Investments in our communications vertical ensure that our media teams are servicing our local clients with the latest, most innovative and analytically-precise technology available on the market,” MMC chief Samia Bouazza said.
Gulf governments are ramping up their technology investments in a regional race for supremacy in the sector which is seen as a critical path to economic diversification.
Firefly will become part of Multiply Group’s communications vertical, which includes global agency MMC, Viola, as well as other minority stakes in companies such as Yieldmo, a digital advertising and attention analytics company.