Insurance watchdog probes into sub-prime impact
By Ding Qi (
Updated: 2008-09-23 18:29

In the latest move guarding against the US subprime shock, the country's insurance watchdog has asked domestic insurers to make an instant but extensive assessment on potential risks, the Shanghai Securities News reported on Tuesday.

In two directives issued several days ago, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) asked insurers to report details of their projects reinsured by US companies, especially the American International Group (AIG) and its subsidiaries between January and June this year. The items include contract names, reinsurance recipients and their quotas, shared insurance value or premiums and others.

The insurance watchdog also asked property insurers and reinsurance firms to give a general review of the current market risks, their provision sufficiency and cash flow. They should also disclose the sub-prime impact on their foreign shareholders, if they have any.

For life insurers, besides the above items, they are required to assess liquidity conditions under the circumstances of large-scale compensation or withdrawals as well as involvements in the overseas reinsurance business.

Insurers were required to report their results within two days after receiving the directives, the CIRC said.

Speaking to Shanghai Securities News, an industry insider said the survey aimed to find out the real impact of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis on the country's insurance sector. Meanwhile, it can help regulators get a clearer picture of the existing or potential risks faced by domestic insurers in order to work out more preventive policies.

According to partial results submitted so far, almost no domestic insurers have invested in the US financial sector. Three mainland-listed insurers - China Life, Ping An Insurance and China Pacific Insurance, as well as the Hong Kong-listed PICC Property & Casualty and China Insurance International Holdings Co haven't invested in bonds issued by the bankrupted Lehman Brothers. Nor did the former three have any investment in AIG or Merrill Lynch's bonds.

By contrast, Global insurance giants with China branches such as AEGON and MetLife have drifted into the latest US financial turmoil. However, since the risk exposure is fairly small compared to their huge total assets, their operations in China are not affected in general. In addition, their mainland life insurance joint ventures have not made any overseas investments yet.

Last Thursday, the Shanghai-based American International Assurance (AIA) said the liquidity problem of its parent AIG would not affect the interests of Chinese policyholders, and AIA remains confident in the future of the Chinese market while continuing to operate normally to meet its obligations to policyholders.

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