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It has been more than a decade now that private insurance players have been trying to gain a foothold in the market. But despite tying up with global leaders and having some of the best brains on board, private insurers seem to be headed nowhere
Private sector insurers are witnessing rapid erosion in market share. Despite having been around for a decade, even reaching break-even seems a distant dream for a number of them. On top of this, private players are even planning initial public offerings (IPOs)!
The numbers do all the talking. Between March 2009 to September 2010, domestic giant Life Insurance Corp of India (LIC) increased its market share in terms of first year premium to 73.27% (from 60.77%) while its market share in terms of number of policies increased to 72.20% (from 70.52%).
Moneylife calculated the first premium market share of life insurance companies as of September 2009 and September 2010, based on data from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA). We considered first-year premium of individual single, individual non-single, group single and group non-single policies. (Please see: www.docstoc.com/docs/58726713/Market-Share-as-per-First-Year-Premiums).
The writing on the wall couldn't be any clearer. LIC has taken away market share from almost all the players.
So is this endgame for private operators? How long will they keep flogging tired revenue models and continue to support balance sheets bleeding red?
Coming back to the IPOs that these private insurers are planning, IRDA is currently readying its guidelines for such offers. Already, questions are being asked over the quality of disclosures mandated and whether investors would really be able to analyse the prospects of such companies.
Speaking about the challenges in the valuation process of insurance companies at a seminar held in Mumbai recently, Ashvin Parekh, partner and national leader - Global Financial Services, Ernst & Young Pvt Ltd, said: "Disclosures for profitability of different product lines should have been made long ago. It would have helped not just for IPOs, but also for corporate governance. But the regulators have already missed the boat by 7-8 years. The authorities kept dragging their feet on Embedded Value (EV) disclosure even after three committees have gone into it. They kept saying it was too technical for them. If it is introduced now, it is impossible for investors to get (an) accurate picture from the disclosure that will be submitted to regulators as per the new guidelines. The regulators should have taken the lead, but confirmed the age-old belief that business is always ahead of regulators."
But regulatory lapses aside, why have private insurers not been able to take on the public sector behemoth? Agreed, LIC is huge, its size bigger than the GDP of almost 80% of countries in this planet- but whatever happened to private ingenuity and nimbleness?
Till 2000, LIC enjoyed a monopoly. But elephants can dance, too. After the market was thrown open to private players, it got its act together. According to TS Vijayan, chairman, LIC, "The company felt threatened, but made changes and prospered."
According to Vipin Anand, chief-corporate communications, LIC, "The opening (up) of (the) insurance sector to private insurers did shake us up, but LIC responded well due to its intrinsic strength. We have 14 lakh agents as of today who cover every part of the country. We were the first government company to go for computerisation. Our computer network is (the) largest in the country after the Indian Railways. Even with the volume of our business we are able to have speed ratio (settlement within stipulated time, usually 30 days) of settling claims at 97.47% (maturity claims) and 95.29% (death claims) for 2009-10. We have excellent investment expertise to manage funds in-house."
Is it too late for private insurers to go back to the drawing board?
New Delhi: Oil minister Murli Deora today met finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to seek cash compensation for state-run oil companies which have lost over Rs31,000 crore on selling fuel below cost in the first half of the current fiscal, reports PTI.
"We asked the finance minister to meet at least 50% of the under recoveries (revenue loss)," Mr Deora said after the meeting.
Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) lost Rs31,367 crore in revenues during the April-September quarter on selling diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene below cost. This includes Rs2,227 crore they lost on selling petrol below cost till 25th June when its pricing was freed from government control.
Of this revenue loss, upstream oil companies Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), GAIL India and Oil India (OIL) will make up for Rs10,456 crore and about Rs10,000 crore has so far been committed by the government by way of cash compensation.
"We want the government compensation to be at least Rs15,000 crore," Mr Deora said. "Mr Mukherjee was positive on our demand and we hope he will oblige us."
The government on 25th June freed petrol price from its control resulting in a hike of Rs3.50 per litre. Rates have subsequently been raised twice by almost a rupee, in step with rise in international rates. Petrol now costs Rs52.55 a litre in Delhi.
Diesel prices were raised by Rs2 per litre on 25th June and it was stated then that they will be gradually freed. But deregulation of diesel prices has been put off for now as the move would mean a further increase in the price by Rs2.87 a litre. Diesel currently costs Rs37.71 a litre in Delhi.
In June, the government had also raised domestic LPG price by Rs35 per 14.2-kg cylinder and kerosene rates by Rs3 per litre. Despite these hikes, state fuel retailers lose Rs16 on sale of every litre of kerosene, and Rs188 per LPG cylinder.