Employees at public non-life insurers seek merger of companies

Written by Press Trust of India | Mumbai | Updated: Aug 18 2014, 08:15am hrs
Employee unions of four state-owned non-life insurers have called for a merger of these companies and formnation of a single general insurance behemoth to strengthen their market share.

At present, there are four state-owned non-life insurance companies New India Assurance (Mumbai), National Insurance (Kolkata), United India Insurance (Chennai) and Oriental Insurance (New Delhi). These four companies have a cumulative asset base of Rs 1,02,000 crore, reserves of Rs 15,000 crore and capital of Rs 550 crore.

The demand was made at a meeting of a delegation of Bharatiya Vima Kamgar Sena (BVKS), the umbrella body representing the unions from all these four insurers, which had called on finance minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi earlier this month. The delegation, which met the finance minister on August 6 to oppose the 49% FDI proposal, was led by two Shiv Sena MPs Anilbhau Desai and Sanjay Raut from Mumbai.

"During our meeting with the minister and financial services secretary GS Sandhu, we demanded merger of all the four PSU non-life players to form a monolithic corporation, which shall strengthen our market share and help us serve rural and social sectors better," New India Assurance union president Sharad Jadhav said.

Currently, the four state-run general insurers have a combined market share of a little more than 55% while the 20 private players control the remaining space.

These PSUs are currently competing mostly against each others by cutting premium rates, which has affected both their market share and profitability apart from providing advantage to private players.

Jadhav also said a merger can help the customers as well as the cost of management expenses will also come down, which can be passed on to customers by way of lower premium.

"If all the four PSU non-life insurers join together to form a single monolithic corporation, then we can save our premium income to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore annually which will further help boost our profitability," he added.

"The BVKS has been strongly demanding merger of all state-run nonlife insurers into one company on the lines of LIC, which still is the dominant market leader with over 70% pie in spite of competing with over two dozen private players," New India Assurance union leader Prasad Samant said.

However, the managements of state-owned non-life insurers are not in favour of the union demand.

"Each of the four state-owned non-life insurers is strongly capitalised and established quite well in the market. They have developed systems and processes which can help them meet and survive the private sector competition," a senior official of a state-run non-life player said.

Life insurers new business premium up a marginal 2.5% at R19,700 crore

The first-year premium of life insurance companies increased a marginal 2.5% from the year ago to R19,699.28 crore as on June 30, 2014. According to data from Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda), the largest life insurer state-run, LIC, contributed over 71% to the total new business premium for the period ended June, at R14,015.92 crore. Private insurers collected R5,683.36 crore as of June, 2014. Among private life insurers, HDFC Standard collected premium of R810.40 crore (up 38.6% year on year) as on June, 2014, ICICI Prudential R782.21 crore (up 38.4%) and SBI Life collected R732.81 crore (up 2.2%) as first year premium. Reliance Life had first-year business premium of R553.66 (up 7.8%) as of June 2014 and Bajaj Allianz R391.93 crore (down 10.5%).