By Suzanne Barlyn
(Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic will likely spur the largest single loss in insurance industry history, said Evan Greenberg, chief executive officer of Chubb Ltd, during a call with analysts on Wednesday.
Chubb, one of the world’s largest insurers, reported its first-quarter financial results late on Tuesday, saying that the pandemic had not affected its performance but that it anticipated a “meaningful impact” during the second quarter.
Greenberg on Wednesday said the COVID-19 outbreak will be felt across its global commercial property and casualty insurance business.
“We’re in an unprecedented moment of historic proportions,” Greenberg said of the pandemic and economic fallout.
Greenberg’s remarks come as U.S. insurers are starting to take stock of the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their businesses, largely in the second quarter.
U.S. commercial insurers are also facing mounting political pressure to cover claims from businesses that are losing revenue because of coronavirus-led shutdowns ordered by state and local governments. Insurers say pandemics and viruses are largely excluded from coverage.
“It would damage or destroy the insurance industry in a terrible way, Greenberg said. “It would simply take money from one to give to another.”
Greenberg said he expects coronavirus-related claims for insurance covering travel, accidents and health, trade credit, and possibly political risk.
The insurer also writes coverage for business interruption losses, but the majority of those policies do not cover business losses from pandemics, Greenberg said.
“This will be an earnings event for Chubb,” Greenberg said. “It will not threaten our balance sheet.” Greenberg likened the company’s virus exposure to a “manageable” catastrophe-like event.
Chubb reported first quarter operating income of $2.68 per share compared with $2.54 for the prior year quarter. Analysts had estimated $2.57 per share, according to Refinitiv/IBES data.
(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)