• Kyodo

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Seven of the top nine domestic life insurers logged declines in basic profit in fiscal 2010 due largely to valuation losses posted for steep price falls in shareholdings following the March 11 catastrophe, according to consolidated earnings reports released by the nine companies through Thursday.

Basic profit comes from an insurer’s core operations, representing the total of premium revenues and returns on invested premiums minus insurance payouts and operating expenses.

Sumitomo Life Insurance Co. incurred a 31.4 percent profit drop and Mitsui Life Insurance Co.’s profit plunged 72.9 percent, as they had to increase reserves for variable insurance in the face of stock price falls.

But Nippon Life Insurance Co. increased its basic profit by 2.2 percent to ¥516.33 billion as returns on investment in foreign bonds more than offset a valuation loss of ¥120 billion on shareholdings in domestic companies, including Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The fiscal 2010 earnings reports show overall trends toward correcting low returns on investment failing to match fixed-yield payments promised to policyholders. Nippon Life eliminated its negative spread.

Premium revenues, equivalent to sales for ordinary businesses, increased at six of the nine insurers. In particular, they jumped 20.2 percent at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. and 31.6 percent at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Co. on strong sales of insurance policies through banks.

The nine companies released their solvency margin ratios — a key indicator of an insurer’s ability to pay claims to policyholders — at the end of fiscal 2010, calculated by both conventional and stricter standards. Under the tougher standard taking effect in fiscal 2011, the ratio stood especially high at 1,720.0 percent for Sony Life Insurance Co. and 720.6 percent for Daido Life Insurance Co.

All nine companies had ratios higher than 300 percent against the 200 percent level below which the government requires insurers to take prompt corrective steps.

Insurance payments in connection with the March 11 disaster did not greatly affect earnings at the nine insurers, which estimated them at a total of ¥167 billion, including ¥42.6 billion for Nippon Life, ¥30.5 billion for Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. and ¥29.5 billion for Meiji Yasuda.

Death insurance payments already made by the nine through May 19 totaled ¥57.7 billion.

Insurance payments in the life insurance industry as a whole, including foreign insurers, are expected to total around ¥200 billion, compared with ¥48.3 billion in the case of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck Hyogo Prefecture.

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