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12:03 PM
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Insurance Outlook Still Uncertain One Week After Japan Quake

The news out of Japan remains grim, and insurers — like many others — can still only wait and see what will happen.

One week after the devastating earthquake in Japan, the situation is very different from how it looked at the time. Fears of moving earth and tsunami, while still a concern, have widely given way to the greater fear (if that's possible to quantify) of nuclear meltdown.

As of noon on Friday, March 18, Japan had raised the severity of the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to five on a scale of seven. Reactors at the plants were damaged in the quake, preventing water from cooling spent fuel rods.

The insurance industry continues to monitor the situation. Analyst firm Keefe, Bruyette and Woods (KBW) noted today that the outlook could remain uncertain for some time. (Anthony O'Donnell has already written on how this event could spur changes in cat models.)

"Cat modeling companies have given wide and highly varied ranges of industry loss estimates reflecting these unknowns," KBW says. "We are reminded of the aftermath of Katrina when initial estimates were proven to be far from accurate."

Many eyes were on Aflac after the quake, as the company claims to be the largest foreign insurer in the country in terms of premium income. In a statement March 14, the company said its employees and headquarters were unharmed.

As far as its outlook, chairman and CEO Daniel Amos said:

As we look to the remainder of 2011, we expect Aflac Japan sales will only be minimally impacted by these events. Our earnings guidance for the year remains unchanged: we will likely be at the low end of the 8% to 12% range for operating earnings per diluted share growth in 2011, excluding the impact of currency.

Aflac also donated 100 million yen (about $1.2 million) to the relief effort. Other carriers donating include Prudential (500 million yen, about $6 million); Northwestern Mutual ($125,000); MassMutual and The Hartford ($100,000 each) and Foresters ($25,000).

(If I missed your company's donation, it's not on purpose; please e-mail or tweet me and I'll add to this list!)

Reinsurers, including Argo Group, Everest Re, RenaissanceRe and Flagstone Re, have sent out comments on the event, but most say it is too soon to provide fixed estimates. Most are only now getting to answers about their losses related to the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake earlier this year.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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