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Insurer Intact Financial to take $257-million hit from disasters

Flooded homes along the Bow River at the Siksika First Nation east of Calgary on June 23, 2013.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Intact Financial Corp. says it will book $257-million of catastrophe losses as a result of several recent freak storms, floods and the deadly Lac-Mégantic oil train crash.

In terms of severe weather claims, this year is shaping up to be one of the worst in decades, according to one expert.

Toronto-based Intact, which bills itself as Canada's largest provider of property and casualty insurance, says it plans to record after-tax losses of $123-million or 92 cents per share, net of reinsurance, in its second-quarter results, out July 31.

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The company said it also expects to book a further $134-million after-tax or $1.01 per share, net of reinsurance, in the third quarter.

The losses are related to damages resulting from the Alberta flooding in June, Lac-Mégantic derailment, severe rain storm in the Greater Toronto Area and early July hail storms.

"The devastation brought on by recent flooding and torrential rain is unprecedented. The scope of the damage and destruction that we have witnessed in recent weeks is a stark reminder that we must adapt the protection offered to Canadians to ensure it remains sustainable in light of the greater prevalence and severity of weather events," Intact chief executive officer Charles Brindamour said in a news release Monday .

Intact did not elaborate on what the implications are of adapting "the protection offered to Canadians to ensure it remains sustainable," whether – for example – it could mean an increase in premiums.

"Insurance and reinsurance rates alike are determined using a number of factors, including loss experiences," Sharon Ludlow, president and chief executive officer of global reinsurance giant Swiss Re's Canadian operations, said in an interview.

"It's up to the individual insurance companies to look at it, based on their own pricing and costing models," she said.

"It's very clear that this is probably one of the costliest years, particularly for insurance companies, for severe weather claims," said Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, an independent body established by the insurance industry and affiliated with the University of Western Ontario.

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With the year barely half gone, the Alberta floods could well surpass the 1998 ice storm s in terms of costs, he said.

Intact said it puts the cost of helping its Alberta customers repair and restore their homes, autos and businesses at more than $300-million.

It pegs the impact of the Lac-Mégantic disaster to its third-quarter results at $25-million. The crash and firestorm killed an estimated 47 people.

In Toronto, the flooding resulted in an estimated $170-million of insurable damages, Intact said.

In all, Intact says it is helping about 16,000 customers in the wake of the disasters.

"Certainly from a Canadian perspective, this is shaping up to be a year where we will see some very significant losses in the industry," said Ms. Ludlow of Swiss Re Canada.

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"There have been a number of events in a short time span."

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More


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