Preliminary estimates from Swiss Re sigma show that natural catastrophes and man-made disasters caused USD 52 billion in losses to society in 2009, of which USD 24 billion were insured

30 November 2009, London

According to initial estimates from Swiss Re’s forthcoming sigma study, the total cost to society of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2009 was USD 52 billion versus USD 267 billion in 2008. The cost to insurers in 2009 was USD 24 billion. Insured losses were below average due to a calm US hurricane season.

In 2009, natural catastrophes will cost insurers roughly USD 21billion, with man-made disasters triggering additional claims of approximately USD 3 billion. By way of comparison, total insured losses had soared to over USD 50 billion worldwide in 2008. The lower figure for 2009 resulted from the calm US hurricane season. Contrary to the US, Europe suffered above average insured losses.

Above average losses during the first half of 2009

Claims from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters during the first seven months of 2009 were nearly double the average over the last 20 years. Between January and July, five events each triggered insured losses in excess of USD 1 billion. The costliest event was winter storm Klaus, which struck France and Spain in January, and led to insured losses of USD 3.5 billion. A July hailstorm that hit Switzerland and Austria cost insurers another USD 1.25 billion. In the US, a winter storm and two tornadoes generated total insured losses of roughly USD 3.5 billion.

Worldwide, approximately 12 000 people were killed by catastrophes in 2009, compared to 240 000 in 2008. The death toll in 2009 was among the lowest of the last 20 years. The region most affected was Asia, where a September earthquake in Indonesia claimed more than 1 000 lives. Another 2 000 people died when three typhoons struck the region between August and October.

Thomas Hess, Chief Economist of Swiss Re, commented: “In 2009, we [thankfully] saw no such event like Hurricane Katrina, which caused USD 71 billion in losses back in 2005. We were lucky, but that may not be the case next year. Though losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters have continuously trended upwards in the past twenty years, we still see high volatility from year to year.”

Swiss Re to present its outlook on the (re)insurance industry including a focus on natural catastrophe insurance at its Economic Forum in London of 1 December 2009

Swiss Re’s Chief Economists Thomas Hess and Clarence Wong will present the outlook for (re)insurance tomorrow at Swiss Re’s Economic Forum in London.  At the same event, Matthias Weber, member of Swiss Re’s Executive Board and Head of Property & Specialty, will provide more details on the natural catastrophe topic and will give a presentation with the title: “Natural Catastrophe Insurance – Aspects of a Growing Business”. Please find more information on the London event in the notes to editors.

Notes for editors

Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd

Swiss Re is a leading and highly diversified global reinsurer. The company operates through offices in more than 20 countries. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re offers financial services products that enable risk-taking essential to enterprise and progress. The company’s traditional reinsurance products and related services for property and casualty, as well as the life and health business are complemented by insurance-based corporate finance solutions and supplementary services for comprehensive risk management. Swiss Re is rated “A+“ by Standard & Poor’s, “A1” by Moody’s and “A” by A.M. Best.

The comprehensive sigma study “Natural and man-made catastrophes in 2009” will be published in spring 2010. Electronic copies and printed copies will be available at that time.