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Texas winter storm loss fears calmed after early reporting

Photo: PA

There is growing optimism amongst (re)insurers that the Texas winter storm loss last month will cost less than $15bn, pointing towards a loss at the lower end of initial $10bn-$20bn expectations.

These figures are in line with the early reports from major insurers in the state, although some expect that potential mould damage could complicate claims settlement.

With less information in from commercial lines specialists to date, the industry will be anticipating some additional uplift from the lower end of current reports.

The first major public flag post from Allstate, with a $1.3bn public gross loss estimate, implies a $13.6bn industry loss based on the carrier's 9.6% market share in Texas across multiple cat-exposed lines of business, according to SNL data.

However, some other early loss notifications from insurers imply an industry loss closer to $10bn or below, with USAA said to have had a lower first loss estimate than reinsurers had expected.

Coastal portfolios, including business written via binders, have also had early favourable reports, as inland areas took more of the brunt of the freezing weather, sources said.

On top of evidence from cedant data, the growing confidence that the loss will be at the lower level of the $10bn-$18bn forecasts reflects the low level of commercial losses emerging from the event.

One counterexample that the industry is watching is the Samsung Austin factory, which has been shut for at least a month as production was due to be brought back online slowly after power and water supplies were restored.

Analysts quoted by Korea Bizwire suggested that the loss of production of wafers could be as much as 400 billion won (above $350mn).

Another major loss was the Texas Association of School Boards, which expects to have a loss of $50mn-$100mn from the winter storms through a $500mn D&F placement written by Lloyd’s players including Faraday and Beazley.

The first loss estimate from Verisk, which has put combined insured losses around $9bn from several different events linked to the Big Freeze, also highlight an expectation that the loss will skew much more towards the personal lines market.

The firm’s loss pick would be expected to rise upward over time as further information comes in from insureds.

It is also understood that modelling firm KCC’s $18bn loss pick reflected an $11bn figure within Texas, alongside significant damages outside the state. The lower figure on Texas-only losses is giving some underwriters additional comfort that the loss will remain below its upper-end projection.

KCC said it believed that the ultimate loss is likely to be close to $18bn, but a larger share may result from Texas.

Even though Texas and the nationwide insurers are not seen as likely candidates to present the kind of loss development that occurs in litigious Florida, there is still some general caution over the potential for loss creep – hence the padding of estimates from around the $10bn level up into the teens.

Regardless, the storm will still set a record for the most damaging US winter storm, from under $4bn in the past by Munich Re figures. Even at the higher end of remodelled losses, a recurrence of the 1983 Freeze Outbreak was only estimated to cost up to $7bn by RMS in 2015.

IPC daily charts february 22 2021

In addition, this is an incredibly heavy loss quarter for what is normally a light loss quarter.

As Skyward Specialty CEO Andrew Robinson said during last week’s Inside P&C Live conference, unmodelled or lesser modelled losses make people nervous.

“The midpoint of that [$10bn to $20bn loss range] is double...the recent history’s largest first quarter net cat loss for the US. And it really wasn’t something that people contemplated in their pricing.”

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