The explosion at Beirut’s port will also blow a hole in insurers’ balance-sheets

自身难保 Broken cover-书迷号

A HOMEOWNER IN Achrafieh does not care if the investigation is a sham, only that it rules that the explosion was an accident. Otherwise his insurance policy will pay nothing. The owner of a ruined boutique down the hill in Mar Mikhael would prefer the opposite result: her policy covers terrorism, unlike most, and will compensate her for an estimated $100,000 in repairs and lost inventory. The manager of a car-rental firm wonders if his explosion cover will include one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, since his vehicles were flattened by falling debris, not the blast itself.
阿什拉菲耶区(Achrafieh)的一名房主并不在乎调查是否装模作样,只在乎它是否会将这场爆炸判定为意外。如果不是意外事故,他的保险不会赔偿一分钱。马尔米哈尔街区(Mar Mikhael)山脚下一家严重受损的时装店的店主倒希望调查结果正相反,因为她买的保险和大多数保险不同,涵盖了恐怖袭击,预计会赔偿她10万美元的维修费和库存损失费。一家租车公司的经理寻思着自己投的爆炸险到底会不会赔付这次史上最大的非核爆炸之一,因为自己的车都是被坠落物压扁,而不是被爆炸本身击碎的。

The explosion that ripped through Beirut on August 4th, caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored improperly for years at the port, devastated much of the city centre. More than 200 people are dead or missing, thousands wounded, and an estimated 300,000 are homeless. The damage to property could reach $15bn. A chunk of that will land on insurance companies in Lebanon, with consequences for banks and foreign reinsurers.

In 2018 Lebanese insurers paid out around $90m to settle property and casualty claims. Insured losses at the port alone could now run to $250m. Victims have filed 2,500 claims for $425m in damages across the city, according to Raoul Nehme, the caretaker economy minister. Insurers expect the number of claims to quadruple and the final price tag to hit $3bn. That is almost double the annual revenue of Lebanon’s 52 insurers, which wrote $1.7bn in gross premiums in 2018.
黎巴嫩的保险公司在2018年为财产损失和人员伤亡赔付了约9000万美元。如今仅贝鲁特港的保险损失可能就高达2.5亿美元。黎巴嫩看守政府经济部长拉乌尔·内赫姆(Raoul Nehme)称,贝鲁特各地的受害者已经提出了2500项索赔,总额达4.25亿美元。而保险公司预计索赔数量还会增长三倍,最终的赔付总额将高达30亿美元。这几乎是黎巴嫩52家保险公司年收入的两倍。2018年它们的总保费收入为17亿美元。

Claims are frozen until the government finishes investigating the blast. Insurers would largely be off the hook if it were a deliberate act (there is no evidence to suggest it was). An act of war would trigger force-majeure clauses, and most policies do not cover terrorism. The worst scenario for insurers is also the most likely: that the blast was an accident. That would trigger another set of claims, as insurers seek to collect from the owners of the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored.

Whatever the final bill, some Lebanese insurers will struggle to pay it. Written premiums fell by 4% in 2019 as an economic crisis forced some policyholders to drop their coverage. This year has been worse. Several insurers are subsidiaries of the country’s insolvent banks. Arope, one of the ten biggest non-life insurers, is owned by Blom, Lebanon’s second-largest bank, which saw net profits fall 77% last year. Other lenders in the country, such as Byblos and Credit Libanais, also offer insurance products.
不管最终的账单数字是多少,一些黎巴嫩保险公司都将不堪承受。2019年,黎巴嫩的经济危机导致一些投保人不得不停止买保险,保险公司的签单保费下降了4%。今年的情况更糟糕。好几家保险公司的母公司都是黎巴嫩资不抵债的银行。十大非寿险公司之一的Arope的母公司、黎巴嫩第二大银行布洛姆银行(Blom)去年的净利润下滑了77%。黎巴嫩的比布鲁斯银行(Byblos)、信贷银行(Credit Libanais)等其他贷款机构也提供保险产品。

Foreign reinsurers will be stuck with part of the bill. Hannover Re expects to book a “major loss”, an event with more than €10m ($11.8m) in claims. Sven Atloff, a member of its board, says it is still impossible to tell whether the total cost will be in the low tens of millions of euros, or even exceed €100m. The firm’s net income was already down by 39% in the first half of 2020 because of covid-related losses. Munich Re also expects a sizeable hit.
外国再保险公司将不得不承担部分费用。汉诺威再保险公司(Hannover Re)预期自己将录得一次“重大损失”,即索赔金额超过1000万欧元(1180万美元)的事件。该公司董事斯文·阿特洛夫(Sven Atloff)表示,目前仍无法确定总损失是在小几千万欧元,还是会甚至超过一亿欧元。受新冠肺炎的影响,该公司的净收入在今年上半年已经下降了39%。慕尼黑再保险公司(Munich Re)同样预计自己会受到相当大的冲击。

For Lebanese firms there is an added wrinkle: whether they can get the cash to pay claims, many of which must be paid in dollars. (Though still officially pegged to the greenback, the Lebanese pound has lost 80% of its value on the black market in recent months.) A banking crisis that began in October has left dollars scarce; foreign-currency withdrawals are tightly restricted. The central bank may have to stop subsidising wheat and fuel imports in November because it is close to its minimum required reserves.

Several policyholders say their insurers have offered to pay them with bank cheques, which can still be freely deposited. But the cheques lose up to two-thirds of their value once withdrawn from banks in devalued local currency, typically converted at a “quasi-official” rate, and converted to dollars on the black market. After months or years of delay, the policies of many of the blast’s victims may give them a payment barely worth the paper they are written on.■