News Coronavirus watch18 Nov 2020

Kazakhstan:Insurance sector resilient amid COVID-19 lockdowns

| 18 Nov 2020

Kazakhstan's insurance sector is proving resilient to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with premiums largely recovering in 3Q2020 after a steep decline in 2Q2020.

In a new report Fitch Ratings (Fitch) said the country's first lockdown from March to mid-May, which included restrictions on business and travel, had a pronounced impact on insurers, with premium volumes dropping 21% year-on-year in 2Q2020. It affected all lines of insurance, including non-life (minus 17%), life (minus 30%) and personal (minus 14%).

However, premiums largely recovered in 3Q2020 despite a second set of less-stringent restrictions from July to mid-August to counter a resurgence of the virus.

Non-life premiums benefitted from a catch-up in motor third-party liability (MTPL) policy renewals, while the life premium recovery was driven by US dollar-denominated hybrid products. These regained their popularity, helped by depreciation of the Kazakh tenge and low yields on bank deposits, said Fitch.

Personal insurance premiums, however, continued to fall in 3Q2020 due to cost-cutting by commercial policyholders and to cross-border travel restrictions leading to a collapse in travel insurance premiums.

Two diversified insurance groups, Eurasia Insurance and Halyk Insurance, increased their MTPL segment share to 50% in 3Q2020 from 37% in 2019, at the expense of several medium-sized traditional motor insurers. They achieved this through their access to bancassurance sales channels and by offering higher commission rates.

“We expect market competition to intensify in 2021, with insurers increasing their commission rates in an attempt to bolster their MTPL market positions, given the limited growth opportunities in other segments,” said Fitch.

“Profitability could weaken in the short term for those insurers that lose their MTPL market share as they have high and inflexible expense levels.”

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