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Global regulators finalise new capital rule for big insurers

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The world's nine biggest insurance companies will have to hold more capital under new rules just finalised by global regulators that aim to prevent taxpayer bailouts of the industry in a crisis.

[LONDON] The world's nine biggest insurance companies will have to hold more capital under new rules just finalised by global regulators that aim to prevent taxpayer bailouts of the industry in a crisis.

Regulators decided to look at the multi-trillion dollar insurance industry following the massive public rescue of insurer AIG in the United States during the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

At the request of the Group of 20 economies (G-20), the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) has completed a two-part capital requirement for the nine companies, whose collapse could wreak havoc in global markets.

They include AIG and MetLife from the United States, Britain's Aviva, Ping An Insurance of China, Italy's Generali, and Axa of France.

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The insurers will not have to make public their extra capital buffer until 2019 but, as with new banking capital rules, investors are likely to want to know if a company is strong enough to comply early without having to raise fresh capital.

The IAIS said the first capital cushion, known as the basic capital requirement, will effectively be what each of the nine insurers are already required to hold under national law.

A consultation had initially proposed that the basic capital requirement, to be phased in over three years from 2016, should be at least 75 per cent of the national requirement.

The second capital buffer, known as higher loss absorbency, will be on average 10 per cent of the basic requirement, depending on the riskiness of a company's operations, the IAIS said in a statement.

This has been scaled back from an original proposal for a higher loss absorbency buffer that was on average 12-13 per cent of the basic one.

All nine must meet their combined capital requirements from 2019 under the finalised rules which G-20 leaders are due to formally endorse next month at a summit in Turkey.

The G-20's regulatory task force, the Financial Stability Board, is due next month to update its list of insurance companies deemed to be systemically important, but it is not expected to include any big re-insurers, an omission that has raised eyebrows of some regulators.

Some US insurance supervisors have questioned the need for global capital rules at all.

Met Life has taken the US government to court to challenge a US regulatory panel's decision to deem the firm"systemically" risky and therefore subject to tighter scrutiny.

REUTERS

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