Insurers Add Up Hurricane Costs in Monte Carlo

While Hurricane Irma battered the state of Florida on Sunday, the top players in the world of insurance were gathered in sunny Monte Carlo assessing costs of the monstrous storm for the worldwide industry.

Thus far insurers have said that Irma and predecessor Harvey, which left massive flooding in its wake across southern Texas, are likely to hit profits in an industry that is struggling with very thin margins, intense competition and dropping prices.

However, at this stage it is too early as damages are not believed to be as excessive as first thought and has not hit the capital base of insurers in such a way that would lift the dropping prices or hurt credit ratings of the companies.

Irma is not only a major weather event for much of Florida, but it is for the insurance industry as well, said a member of the board of directors of a German reinsurance company.

As well as almost 2,500 executive from the insurance industry in Monte Carlo, there is a group haggling over the reinsurance prices and discussing underwriting deals.

The meeting occurs annually during the height of the hurricane season in the Atlantic, but not since 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, have such devastating storms weighed on the industry so heavily.

The industry is still reeling from the likely costs from Harvey. The loss assessment, said on insurance executive was complex and it would take a long period for the estimates to come in, leaving a great deal of uncertainty across the market.

The executive estimates that insured losses on a global level for the industry will reach to between $20 billion and $30 billion. That puts the storm on a scale similar to that of Hurricane Sandy that causes major New York flooding with a storm surge during 2012.

For Irma, which on Sunday hit the Florida Keys in the morning and moved up the west coast during the day after it had ravaged much of the Caribbean, the estimates for losses are more severe.

On Monday, AIR Worldwide forecasted that total insured losses for the U.S. would be $20 billion to $40 billion.

The big unknown for the insurance industry has been if reinsurers will see losses so high that they can then ask for higher prices for coverage. That would be the first reversal since Katrina, which to date is registered as the costliest natural disaster of all time in the U.S. as insured losses topped $80 billion.