AM Best has maintained its stable outlook on the re/insurance markets of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) due to the potential for premium growth and short-term opportunities, as well as extensive reinsurance support and improved regulatory sophistication.
The rating agency noted that the rollout of mandatory health insurance in Oman and Bahrain is likely to boost premiums, white the 2020 World Expo in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could also provide growth opportunities.
Also weighing in the GCC’s favour was the widespread use of reinsurance support in the markets, advances in risk management and better regulatory practices.
However, these factors were partially offset by a heightened risk environment due to elevated geopolitical risks,” AM Best said.
This increases the potential for volatility in hydrocarbon prices, which may in turn affect public spending in the region.
Analysts further noted that the balance sheets of GCC insurers generally remain well-capitalised and capable of enduring catastrophe stress scenarios.
That said, regional insurers are considered vulnerable to shocks in investment markets, which may become more severe if economic and political instability increases.
Balance sheet strength could also come under pressure for some insurers if earnings decline and shareholder dividend expectations do not adjust.
AM Best concluded that GCC insurers that are innovative, have capital buffers, are able to rationalise their dividend policies, and have preferential access to business are in the best position to withstand the pressures of the current operating environment.