Published on 20 Jan 2023.
RAM Ratings has downgraded Pacific & Orient Insurance Co. Berhad’s (P&O Insurance or the Insurer) insurer financial strength ratings from A2/Negative/P1 to A3/Stable/P2. The rating of the Insurer’s proposed RM90 mil Perpetual Subordinated Notes Programme was concurrently lowered from A3/Negative to BBB1/Stable. The programme is rated one notch below P&O Insurance’s long-term insurer financial strength rating to reflect its status as an unsecured and subordinated obligation of the Insurer.
The downgrade reflects sustained weakening of the Insurer’s underwriting performance vis-à-vis the industry amid stiff competition. P&O Insurance is a small player in the general insurance industry, seeing its niche in motorcycle insurance continue to be eroded (currently ranking fourth in a segment it previously led). The growth of its private car segment in recent years has yet to contribute to a sustained improvement in underwriting performance.
Despite a promising fourth-quarter showing in FY Sep 2021, P&O Insurance suffered an underwriting loss in FY Sep 2022 (RM4.7 mil vs. RM3.4 mil underwriting profit in FY Sep 2021) owing to intense competition in the overall motor insurance market and the normalisation of claims levels as the economy reopened. A weaker investment performance also contributed to a smaller pre-tax profit of RM3.3 mil (FY Sep 2021: RM15.0 mil).
P&O Insurance’s claims ratio (61% in FY Sep 2022) stayed higher than the industry’s (53% in 1H 2022), given its motor segment-heavy portfolio (nearly 70% of gross premiums). The motor class typically experiences a higher claims ratio than other classes of business. As road traffic returned to normalcy, motor claims generally rose across the industry. Due to an elevated management expense ratio of above 40% (2019-2021 industry average: 24%), P&O Insurance’s combined ratio of 103% in fiscal 2022 (fiscal 2021: 97%; pre-pandemic fiscal 2017-2019 average: 93%) was also notably higher than the industry’s 92% (in 1H 2022) – a consistent trend over the past few years (2019-2021 industry average: 89%).
Going forward, the Insurer plans to grow PrOmilej – a private car insurance product featuring mileage-based pricing – as the claims ratio for this policy is comparatively lower (around 60%) than its traditional private car products. It will also refocus efforts to enhance its presence in the motorcycle insurance space. The outcome of these initiatives remains to be seen.
The Insurer’s ratings are supported by its strong capitalisation and reserves coverage as well as a healthy liquidity profile, which continues to be constrained by its small business stature as a general insurer. P&O Insurance’s capital adequacy ratio of 219% as at end-September 2022 provides a comfortable buffer against possible adverse claims developments. As at the same date, reserves coverage stood at a solid 213% while liquid assets covered 1.3 times the Insurer’s net insurance contract liabilities.
Lee Yee Von
(603) 3385 2503
(603) 3385 2619
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Published by RAM Rating Services Berhad
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Ratings on Pacific & Orient Insurance Co. Berhad