2017 will be remembered for the brutal roll-call of major cat events including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Marie as well as the wildfires in California.
And it is now inevitable that 2018 will be an equally defining year for industry M&A.
Perhaps this was predictable from the outset as AIG’s $5.6bn swoop for Validus took place while the off-note choruses of Auld Lang Syne were still fresh in our memories.
And at this Monte Carlo Rendez-Vous, the spotlight is on Scor which recently rebuffed an EUR8.3bn offer from Covea, the French mutual insurance group that owns a near-9 percent stake in the Paris-headquartered firm.
Scor’s irrepressible CEO Denis Kessler may disagree, but there are those that will now regard Scor as in play regardless of whether there is an increased bid from Covea.
Indeed, Kessler is already marshalling a fierce defence of his company’s independence; for example, last week the firm put out a staunch denial of rumours that it had had talks with Partner Re earlier this year and has said it will regard any public bid as “hostile”.
If Scor is determined to remain independent at all costs, then it will not be swept up. After all, Kessler’s track record is exemplary ever since – as a relatively unknown Alsacian economist – he rode to the company’s rescue in 2002. Scor’s shareholders have no reason to prefer Covea to Kessler.
He himself also knows the difficulty of acquiring intransigent European reinsurers – as demonstrated by the resistance put up by Swiss reinsurer Converium before it finally succumbed to Scor’s overtures in 2007.
And traditionally, European shareholders are not as easily swayed by cash on the table as US or UK ones are.
However, one cannot deny the strength of the consolidation tide. Reinsurers are continually under pressure to squeeze costs and remain competitive when they are facing competitors from other markets – namely ILS – with cheaper costs of capital.
Last month, saw Markel create a $19bn ILS gorilla with its acquisition of fund manager Nephila, The Hartford landed Navigators and Aspen Insurance finally succumbed to Apollo Global.
There was a time when August was for reporting results, going on holiday and keeping an eye on the weather channel. Not in the year that saw Axa acquire XL Group for $15.3bn.
Later this month, we expect China Re to gain a major foothold in the international specialty/reinsurance markets with its $1bn acquisition of Lloyd’s insurer Chaucer.
It’s unlikely to be the last in 2018…