QBE Insurance Group (ASX: QBE) was up 3.3% at the open after today’s performance update revealed gross written premium remained strong in first quarter (1Q), up 19% on the previous period.
Highlights within what was a turbulent 1Q operating environment included:
Group-wide renewal rate increases averaged 7.9%, while growth ex-rate of 18% was substantial.
Crop gross written premium estimated to be circa $3.3bn in FY22, a significant increase from $2.7bn in FY21.
An external quota share has been placed on the 2022 underwriting year to manage net retention, and Crop net earned premium is expected to be around $1.3-1.4bn in FY22 from $1.2bn in FY21.
While natural catastrophe remained higher in 1Q22 - including widespread flooding and storms across the east coast of Australia and Storm Eunice in the UK and Europe - claims for the quarter were in-line with the 1Q22 allowance.
QBE currently expects to have some [catastrophe cost] exposure to the broader Russia/Ukraine war, with potential net impact currently estimated at around $75m.
Meantime, QBE's recently entered transaction to reinsure legacy North American Excess and Surplus (E&S) lines prior accident year liabilities, is expected to reduce the group’s exposure to further reserve volatility in this run-off portfolio - and is currently expected to adversely impact QBE’s FY22 underwriting result by around $50m.
Over the quarter, QBE repositioned its investment portfolio with risk assets representing 9% of total investment assets at 31 March 2022.
This resulted in a negative asset risk free rate impact of $459m, which was broadly offset by a beneficial claims liability discount impact of $440m.
Due to higher risk-free rates and slightly wider credit spreads, the 1Q22 exit fixed income running yield of 1.52% increased materially on the FY21 exit running yield of 0.68%.
Management notes the 1Q22 exit running yield of 1.52%, together with QBE’s expected risk asset return of 5.5%, equates to a 1Q22 exit total investment return run rate of around 2%.
Commenting on 1Q22 performance, QBE Group CEO Andrew Horton said:
“Despite a number of natural catastrophes and significant geopolitical events, positive momentum experienced through FY21 continued into 1Q22, and I was pleased with QBE’s resilience through what was a turbulent operating environment.”
"We have had a strong start to the year for gross written premium growth and will review FY22 outlook at the half-year result following the key mid-year renewal period.”
As discussed at the recent 2021 result, management’s strategy centres around resilience and consistency, which should result in the business being capable of delivering a consistent low to mid-90s combined ratio.
Based on the current outlook for FY22, the group continues to expect a combined operating ratio that demonstrates improvement on the FY21 exit combined operating ratio of 94%.
QBE's share price has had a volatile ride over the last six months.
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