Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/24/2013 -- As in previous annual reports, we think that it is still fair and reasonable to describe the Caribbean as something of a backwater in terms of the insurance sectors of the various countries. A comparison with nearby markets in Latin America indicates that the Caribbean markets are small and not particularly rapidly growing.
In all five countries that we consider - Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Barbados - a lacklustre economic environment has contained the growth of premiums and - in the life segments especially - boosted lapse rates. This has happened at a time that low interest rates and the restructuring of Jamaica's government debt have reduced investment income. Nevertheless, the major players are being proactive. As of late 2013, Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL) has introduced a new and unified brand for the entire region, following acquisitions in the (former) Netherlands Antilles. Sagicor Financial has announced the sale of its European operations, which should eventually free up more capital that may be allocated to Sagicor's core businesses in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Pan-American Life Insurance Group (PALIG) has emerged as a third force in the region, thanks to its purchase of MetLife Alico's Algico business. Unlike GHL or Sagicor, PALIG has substantial operations in Central America and other parts of Latin America.
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The opportunities vary from country to country. We would highlight: consolidation in the non-life segment of Trinidad and Tobago; offshore insurance in Barbados and the Bahamas; and the development of products that are attractive to low income groups in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
Unfortunately, though, we are not able to see catalysts for much higher non-life penetration rates or life densities. Both will be essential if premiums are to rise more rapidly than in H113. Our forecasts for 2013 as a whole are based significantly on the results and comments of the two leading regional life companies.
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