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China insurers expect 1.5 bln dlrs in snow, quake claims: officials

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 29, 2008
China's insurers expect to pay out more than 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion dollars) in claims due to the earthquake in the southwest and blizzards at the start of the year, officials said Tuesday.

However, so far only 520 million yuan in earthquake claims has been paid out compared to five billion yuan for the snowstorms, Yuan Li, a spokesman for the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, told a news briefing in Beijing.

"This year's blizzard and the May 12 earthquake posed extremely big challenges to insurance companies," Yuan said.

He said total payouts for both events were estimated to be 10 billion yuan.

But that represents a small fraction of the 154.4 billion yuan in claims paid in the first half of the year, Yuan said.

The sector earned 561.8 billion yuan in revenue over the same period, he said.

The regulator also said it was considering applications by four banks to invest in insurance companies.

Until now, China has kept banks and insurance companies separate to help keep the financial system stable. China's State Council, the cabinet, would have to approve any changes, Yuan said.

The four are Bank of Beijing, Bank of Communications, China Construction Bank, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Yuan said.

In China, insurance penetration -- total premiums as a percentage of gross domestic product -- was just 2.7 percent in 2006, compared to 16.5 percent in Britain and 14.5 percent in Taiwan, according to insurer Swiss Re.

China's insurers do not offer quake coverage, but after May's disaster, and at the government's urging, some companies agreed to compensate people who had accident insurance.

Weeks of the most severe winter weather in 50 years left more than 100 dead and millions stranded in China during the Lunar New Year Holiday.

The 8.0-magnitude quake in Sichuan province left nearly 88,000 people dead or missing, and up to five million others homeless.

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Japanese say careful preparations saved them from quake
Hachinohe, Japan (AFP) July 25, 2008
Residents of northern Japan said Friday that careful preparations and lessons learned from previous earthquakes limited the damage caused by the latest major tremor to hit the region.

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