Entscheidung der SNB setzt Versicherer in der Schweiz unter Druck

18.02.2015 – fahne-schweiz-150Die Entscheidung der Schweizerischen Nationalbank (SNB) die Eurokoppelung des Schweizer Franken aufzuheben hat Konsequenzen für die Bonität eidgenössischer Versicherer. Im Interview beleuchtet die Moody`s Analystin Helena Pavicic die Auswirkungen auf das Zahlenwerk der Unternehmen bis hin zur Dividendenpolitik.

Which insurance groups will be most affected by the SNB’s policy changes and how?

Pavicic: The most significant impact is the material increase in the reported dividend amount to be paid in Swiss francs by Swiss domiciled groups, which earn the majority of their income and file financial statements in other currencies, such as Zurich Insurance Company (insurance financial strength rating Aa3, stable) and Swiss Re (Aa3, stable). More generally, the balance sheet impact will be limited, but these changes are credit negative from an earnings perspective.

How does the appreciation of the Swiss franc affect insurers’ earnings?

Non Swiss groups with sizable Swiss operations (e.g. AXA (Aa3, stable), Allianz (Aa3, stable) and Generali (Baa1, stable)) will likely report accounting currency translation benefits in their consolidated  accounts. Insurers headquartered in Switzerland, which have meaningful international operations and file financial statements in US dollar, such as Zurich and Swiss Re, will report higher total expenses because of the increase in their reported head office costs.

How significant is the SNB’s decision to lower the base rate?

A lower base rate will reduce investment returns earned on Swiss denominated fixed income securities and is therefore credit negative for all insurers operating in Switzerland, but particularly for those most dependent on returns from the Swiss financial market.

Will the international groups you rate, headquartered in Switzerland, need to change their dividend policies?

We think that the increase in the reported dividend cost is manageable for both Zurich and Swiss Re. However, funding dividend payments may become more challenging in the medium-term, particularly for Zurich, which already has one of the highest payout ratios among European peers.

How will the capital ratios of Zurich and Swiss Re be affected?

The immediate impact on economic capital ratios will be minimal, because these are large international groups which, by definition, are well diversified. While higher reported dividend amounts and head office costs could reduce retained earnings in the medium-term, we expect both groups to remain strongly capitalised.

What is the impact on the financial flexibility profiles of Zurich and Swiss Re?  

At worst, a 20% appreciation of the Swiss franc would increase reported total leverage by less than 1 percentage point. Reported interest costs will also increase which, if coupled with higher reported head office expenses, would reduce earnings coverage in 2015. However, lower coupons on future Swiss denominated debt issuances would likely negate this negative currency translation effect in the medium-term.

Bild: Die Schweiz bleibt unabhängig vom Euro. (Quelle: ak)

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