Saudi insurers surge as vehicle checks enforced

Vehicles involved in any traffic violation in Saudi Arabia are automatically checked for insurance. (AFP)
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Updated 16 August 2020

Saudi insurers surge as vehicle checks enforced

  • Move comes as relief to industry still reeling from pandemic fallout

RIYADH: Saudi insurance stocks surged on Wednesday after the traffic department said that it would enforce vehicle checks to ensure drivers had appropriate cover.

The move sent the share prices of several insurers soaring as investors bet they would benefit, as more people would subsequently be forced to buy policies.

Under the current rules, if a vehicle is involved in any traffic violation in the Kingdom, its record is automatically checked to see if there is an insurance policy linked to it.

The top five gainers on the Tadawul were all insurance firms, led by Axa, Walaa and Malath, all up by almost 10 percent on the day.

The insurance sector is one of the most represented on the Tadawul with 32 companies listed. It is also heavily exposed to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has heaped pressure on regional insurers with S&P warning in April that a spike in claims and a decline in equity markets could hurt their balance sheets.

Walid bin Ghaith, a member of the Saudi Economic Association, told Al Arabiya that the new decision would be a major boost for the car insurance market in the Kingdom.

“As it is known, the insurance (of cars) is mandatory legally, but there is no mechanism to mandate all people to insure their cars,” he said. “This damaged the insurance companies, since a lot of cars are not insured, so disputes emerge when identifying the liable side in the incident. This will result in two things: First, improving the rate of claims on the insurance companies, and the second, and the more important, is opening a big market or doubling the market for the car insurance companies.”

The move will be welcome news for the auto insurance sector in Saudi Arabia, as car sales worldwide come under increased pressure as people, fearful for their job security, delay major purchasing decisions.


Bailout will keep Air France-KLM afloat for less than year: CEO

Updated 21 September 2020

Bailout will keep Air France-KLM afloat for less than year: CEO

  • ‘If we base it upon the past few weeks, it is clear that the recovery in traffic will be slower than expected’
  • Governments are coming under pressure to tie airline bailouts to environmental commitments

PARIS: Bailouts provided to Air France-KLM by the French and Dutch governments will keep the airline flying less than a year, its CEO Benjamin Smith said Monday and evoked the possibility of injecting new capital.
In an interview with the French daily l’Opinion, Smith also warned that calls for airlines to contribute more to fight climate change could be catastrophic for their survival which is already under threat due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When countries imposed lockdowns earlier this year to stem the spread of the coronavirus airlines faced steep drops in revenue that have claimed several carriers.
A number of countries stepped in with support, including France which provided $8.2 billion to Air France and the Netherlands which received a $2.9 billion package.
“This support will permit us to hold on less than 12 months,” said Smith.
The reason is that air traffic is picking up very slowly as many northern hemisphere countries are now fearing a second wave of infections.
“If we base it upon the past few weeks, it is clear that the recovery in traffic will be slower than expected,” according to Smith, who said when the bailout was put together the airline was expecting a return to 2019 levels only in 2024.
Smith said discussions were already underway with shareholders on shoring up the airline group, and steps would be taken before the next regular annual meeting in the second quarter of next year.
“One, three or five billion euros? It is too early to put a figure on a possible recapitalization,” he said.
The airline group had $12.12 billion in cash or available under credit lines.
Major shareholders include the French government with a 14.3 percent stake, the Dutch government at 14 percent, as well as Delta and China Eastern airlines which each hold an 8 percent stake.
Governments are coming under pressure to tie airline bailouts to environmental commitments.
One proposal that has come from a citizen’s convention convoked by President Emmanuel Macron would cost airlines an estimated $3.6 billion.
Smith said the imposition of environmental charges on the industry would be “irresponsible and catastrophic” for Air France-KLM.