We are facing a growing and menacing threat posed by pandemics. Recent years have witnessed SARS, bird flu, MERS, Ebola and now the Zika virus. With each new discovery, our response is bewilderingly clumsy, and we seem to be no more equipped to respond than before. In many ways, we tie our own noose. History is littered with examples of action performed too little, too late.

Increasing population density and transnational travel of people and commodities increase the risk of communicable disease. As the threat of pandemics is becoming more real, it is paramount to create robust systems at the international, national and local levels to cope with such outbreaks. A recent global health commission estimated the potential annual economic losses from pandemics to be $60bn. Despite this ominous threat, international efforts to mitigate the risks are woefully inadequate. Read more

Since Narendra Modi’s government has been in power, significant changes have been made to boost India’s economy and society. One major change was implementing the Indian Insurance Act, first proposed by the previous government.

The Act enables global reinsurers to enter as 100 per cent owned branches and increases overall foreign direct investment (FDI) in the insurance industry from the current limit of 26 per cent to 49 per cent. While there are many aspects of insurance, the most significant opportunity not only for insurers but also for Indian society, is the health insurance sector. Read more

Mumbai is in the midst of one of the nation’s noisiest and most fun-filled festivals: Ganesh Chaturthi.

During the 10-day festival, statues of the elephant-headed God are set up at mandals (temporary shrines) around the city and worshipped before being immersed in water – usually on the seafront.

But who foots the bill for this vast celebration with its enormous sculptures, temporary altars and elephantine decorations? Read more

By Bindu N Lohani of the Asian Development Bank

Coconut farmers in the Philippines, factory workers in Thailand and the fishing community in Indonesia know a hard truth about the losses wrought by natural hazards: lost income can significantly stall a community’s recovery, pulling those who survive deeper into a cycle of poverty and loss that’s hard to break.

Aid organizations have responded at the community level by focusing on cash-for-work schemes. But cash-for-work can only go so far. It cannot protect against lost income; it cannot provide enough cash to get industry going again; and it cannot provide meaningful employment over the many months of long-term recovery.

This is why better access to disaster risk financing – which spreads the risks and provides financing for immediate response, recovery, and reconstruction – is desperately needed. Read more

There is nothing that the west – and we in the western media – love to hate more than when Chinese money threatens to take a chunk of the free media that we see as a cornerstone of our democracies. So when a Chinese recycling millionaire said he was buying the New York Times, we either squealed with outrage or denounced it as a publicity stunt (which it seems that it was). Read more

Vanich Chaiyawan

Thai billionaires have been flexing their financial muscles this past 12 months. The names of Dhanin Chearavanont and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi still don’t exactly trip off the tongue, but they have become much more commonly uttered in the corridors of Asia’s investment banks.

Dhanin’s CP Group pulled off Thailand’s biggest acquisition this year with the $6.6bn takeover of retail chain Siam Macro and picked up HSBC’s chunky $9bn stake in Ping An, China’s biggest private insurer. Charoen, not to be outdone, waged a monumental bidding war with Heineken over Asia Pacific Breweries in Singapore. Charoen’s Thai Beverage group ultimately lost the drinks business, but won control of Fraser & Neave, the property group that formerly part-owned APB.

Now, a third Thai name looks likely to become much familiar alongside these two. Read more

With very low penetration rates and too many small players, Fitch Ratings reckons Indonesia’s nascent insurance market could be set for a wave of domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions.

The attractions of Indonesia’s market were highlighted this week by Japan’s Dai-ichi Life, which agreed to acquire 40 per cent of Panin Life, an Indonesian insurer, for Rp3.3tn ($337m). Read more

Wealthy Chinese mainlanders famously love to go shopping in Hong Kong, hungry for items such as milk powder, gold and luxury shoes and handbags. But they also like to buy less high profile items, including insurance policies. Read more

Men fish on the Bosphorus on February 23, 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Reluctant customers

Turkey’s insurance sector could be heading for a period of consolidation following the announcement that Germany’s Allianz is to buy the non-life and pensions business of Turkey’s Yapi Kredi.

That deal makes Allianz Turkey’s biggest non-life insurer and largest private pension provider by portfolio size and the third largest life insurer. But analysts say there could be more deals to come – and plenty of opportunity for growth in an under-insured country. Read more

A growing desire for a decent burial among the less well-off in Africa is changing the map of things as far as insurance goes. With vast parts of the continent still uninsured, could the business of burials be one of the keys to opening up the insurance industry?

Funeral insurance policies are set to lead a rise in demand in Africa as the continent gears for a boom in the global insurance market, research shows. Read more

Turkey is no stranger to seismic activity having suffered eleven earthquakes of magnitude 5.8 or over in the past 20 years, and daily experiences 50 or more minor tremors.

So, although the magnitude 4.5 quake that hit the Black Sea north westof Istanbul on Tuesday was felt across the city, it was in itself nothing unusual.

It did however serve as a timely reminder to Turks of the country’s potential for natural disaster. Read more

Africa may host some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but it also still suffers from coups, riots and messy elections, which can bring business to a sudden halt. Kenya’s general election in 2007 wreaked economic havoc. It will hold another in March – but this time around, political risk insurance is providing a modicum of security for foreign investors and locals alike. Read more

HSBC on Thursday finally responded to the welter of speculation about the planned sale of its $9.4bn stake in Ping An, the Chinese insurer.

And it seemed to dismiss suggestions that the deal might be off because of widely-reported concerns that the Chinese state bank financing the deal might pull out. It said, in short, that it had nothing to add to its December 5 statement announcing the sale. Will this be the last word in this complicated saga? Read more

Petr Kellner is the Czech Republic’s richest man and this week’s deal that has Italy’s Generali paying €2.5bn to buy out the 49 per cent of an insurance joint venture with Kellner’s PPF that it does not already own will make him even wealthier.

The deal gives Generali full control over the joint venture that has seen rapid growth since it was formed in 2007. Read more

Euh Yoon-dae

Photo: Bloomberg

Euh Yoon-dae, chairman of KB Financial Group, must be frustrated that the lender’s board rejected his plan to buy ING Groep’s life insurance unit in Korea for $1.2bn.

Euh (pictured) has been keen to acquire the insurance business to diversify KB’s business portfolio, as profits in the banking sector have suffered during a slowdown in Korea’s economy. Read more

A woman pulls her daughter behind her in a small raft as she walks along a flooded street, near to the overflowing Chao Phraya river on November 1, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand.For the life insurance industry, there’s nothing quite like a national near-death experience to boost the balance sheet, as Thailand shows.

The country’s number two life insurer, Thai Life, is pondering the sale of a 20 per cent stake, which some analysts predict would fetch $500m, valuing the company at $2.5bn. If successful, it will be Thailand’s third big insurance deal this year after Prudential acquired Thanachart Life Insurance and Hong Kong based investor Richard Li bought ING Thailand. Investors should not be surprised if the trend continues. Read more

Dhanin Chearavanont

Photo: Bloomberg

By Gwen Robinson and Jake Maxwell Watts

Dhanin Chearavanont, the 73-year-old patriarch of the Charoen Pokphand group of companies, told a business gathering in Bangkok some months ago the time was right for Thai companies to go shopping abroad. On Wednesday, Dhanin put his money where his mouth was, sealing a $9.4bn deal to buy HSBC’s entire 15.6 per cent stake in China’s second-largest insurer, Ping AnRead more

HSBC‘s $9.4bn deal to sell its 15.6 per cent stake in Ping An to Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group is clearly good news for the British bank. It should also be good news for the Chinese insurer, assuming that Charoen Pokphand follows HSBC’s example in the role of long-term stable foreign shareholder.

Investors in Ping An are betting that it will, with the shares jumping 5.6 per cent in Hong Kong on the news and later closing up 4.1 per cent. HSBC, which made its intentions clear weeks ago, saw its shares rise 1 per cent. Read more

It’s not the industry that normally springs to mind when you think of Brazil, but insurance is fast becoming one of the country’s investment hotspots.

Growing income among Brazil’s new middle classes and a tight labour market are boosting demand for health and auto policies. Meanwhile, the vast infrastructure projects underway to get the country ready to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later also offer huge opportunities for insurance companies. Read more