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Guardian becomes dominant Caribbean general insurer

CAMILO THAME Business co-ordinator thamec@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 28, 2012    

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GUARDIAN Holdings’s latest acquisition will give it an additional 12 per cent share of the general insurance market in the Dutch Caribbean.

More importantly, it will make the Trinidadian-based company the dominant general insurer in the Caribbean markets in which it operates.

Its subsidiary, Fatum, which operates in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao as well as St Maarten, bought Royal and Sun Alliance Antilles (RSA Antilles) outright last week.

The newly acquired general insurance company, which adds St Eustatius and Saba to the countries where Guardian has a presence, reported (British pounds) 15 million (TT$155 million) in gross written premiums in 2011.

Last year, Fatum took in TT$287 million ($4.1 billion), or 22 per cent of the property and causality business in the Dutch Caribbean, according to Richard Espinet, Guardian’s group president for Caribbean Property and Casualty.

Consequently, after RSA Antilles’s operation is fully absorbed by Guardian, the Trinidadian-based insurer should end up with close to 35 per cent of the general insurance market in the Dutch Caribbean.

What’s more, the combined premiums of Fatum and RSA Antilles will make it a larger general insurer than West Indies Alliance, which recently bought Globe for US$38 million.

The sale price for the latest acquisition wasn’t disclosed, but based on last year's performance the combined operations of Globe and West Indies took in gross premiums in excess of $5.5 billion, or some $800 million less than the combined Dutch Caribbean operations.

The latest purchase fits into Guardian’s long-term goal of being the dominant player in each market it operates.

Jeffrey Mack, the group’s CEO, said that the insurer is already dominant in Trinidad and Tobago, where it has a 65 per cent market share in life, health and pensions as well as a 31 per cent share of the property and casualty business.

In the Dutch Caribbean, it already had 32 per cent of the life, health and pensions market, but in Jamaica, it had a 20 per cent share in each of life and health insurance market and around a third of pensions.

For general insurance, it is now the largest player of the eight operators in Jamaica, with a 20 per cent market share.

“With the addition of RSA Antilles to our general insurance portfolio, and the acquisition last month of Globe Insurance Company in Jamaica, GHL now has an unassailable market leadership position in the general insurance sectors across all of our core markets,” said Mack. “(This fulfil) our strategic objective and demonstrates our confidence and commitment to the people and economies of the Caribbean.”

UK-based RSA, which operated the joint venture in the Dutch Caribbean with Curacao-based Maduro and Curiel`s Bank, said that the sale fits within its focus on territories “where we can achieve scale and deliver attractive returns to shareholders”.

“In the majority of our markets we are already achieving our objectives but where we see no strategic fit or route to outperformance, we are committed to taking decisive action,” said Richard Houghton, RSA Group Chief Financial Officer.

The successful completion of this transaction is subject to all necessary approvals from the regulators in Curacao, Saint Maarten, Aruba and the islands of Bonair, Saint Eustatius and Saba.

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