Aviva sees $276 million in Covid-19 claims, weaker second quarter

Aviva said new life insurance sales rose by 28 per cent in the first quarter of 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - British insurer Aviva expects £160 million (S$276 million) in claims related to the coronavirus pandemic and weaker second quarter sales, it said on Thursday (May 21), as government lockdowns aimed at containing the virus hit the global economy.

Insurers globally are likely to face more than US$107 billion (S$151.4 billion) in underwriting losses due to the pandemic this year, similar in size to major hurricane years, the Lloyd's of London insurance market said last week.

"We've had a pretty good first quarter," Aviva chief financial officer Jason Windsor told Reuters.

"Q2 could look pretty different, we know there will be materially lower activity."

Aviva, which has operations in Asia, mainland Europe and Canada as well as Britain, said new life insurance sales rose by 28 per cent to £12.3 billion in the first quarter, helped by a strong performance in bulk annuities, which involve taking on the risk of company defined benefit pension schemes.

General insurance net written premiums rose 3 per cent to £2.4 billion.

Aviva's shares were up 2 per cent to 244 pence at 0718 GMT, one of the biggest gains on the FTSE 100, with Shore Capital analysts describing the results as "solid".

Most of the Covid-19 claims are coming from lines such as business interruption and travel insurance, Aviva said.

A number of top insurers are facing possible legal action from small firms in Britain which have not received payments for their business interruption insurance due to the pandemic.

Law firm Mishcon de Reya, which is advising a group of British hospitality businesses, said this week it was narrowing its focus for a potential claim on Aviva and QBE.

Aviva said on Thursday the "vast majority" of its commercial policies did not cover business interruption claims arising from Covid-19, but it had paid some claims in Britain and Canada where cover was in place.

QBE declined to comment.

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