Insurance companies to be more transparent

Kathmandu, September 3:

Beema Samiti, the regulatory authority of insurance companies, is doing homework to make insurance companies more transparent.

“We are working to make them publish their quarterly reports to maintain transparency and inform small investors about the companies’ financial health,” said Devendra Pratap Shah, chairman of the regulatory authority that has the primary duty to protect policy holders, adding that “protecting the interest of small investors is also our duty.”

At present, the insurance companies submit their reports yearly to the board but do not need to publish that in the newspapers. “We have just started a new regulation of submitting detailed reports,” Shah said adding that earlier disclosure system was not very good.

The capital market is financial institutions-dominated because they are transparent due to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) rule. According to the central bank rule, financial institutions must publish their quarterly accounts regularly. Failure to do so will invite penalty. The insurance company group comes third in terms of trading of their shares at the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) after financial institutions — Commercial banks, development banks and finance companies — and hydropower groups.

Currently, 17 insurance companies are listed under the insurance group that has a total of 17,187,384-unit shares worth Rs 1,718,738,400, according to Nepse. They have earned Rs 3.23 billion premium collectively in the fiscal year 2005-06 and the total collection of premium might be above Rs 4.5 billion at the end of 2007-08, but that has yet to be finalised.

Apart from these listed insurance companies, new companies like Prime Life Insurance (PLI), Gurans Life Insurance (GLI), Surya Life Insurance (SLI) and Asian Life Insurance (ALI) are floating 1.1 million-unit shares worth Rs 110 million each as life insurance companies need to have Rs 360 million for life insurance while non-life insurance companies need to have Rs 100 million, according to the new regulation.

The paid up and issue capital of all these insurance companies is equal to Rs 360 million, of which Rs 250 million belongs to promoters. “Within a year of its operation, Prime Life Insurance will issue 1.1 million-unit shares worth Rs 110 million,” said Laxman Rizal, chief executive officer (CEO) of Prime Life Insurance.

New players’ entry in the insurance group ensures market expansion and more supply of shares that will help stabilise the capital market.

Buying shares of insurance companies is a more secure venture than any other companies as the insurance business itself is a secure one. Insurance is a tool of the financial sector that guarantees a insurer of their future.

At present, less than five per cent of the total Nepali populace is reaping the benefits of insurance. Even property holdings of national importance are not insured. The life insurance sector’s contribution to the GDP is only two per cent and it has generated around 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.

In Nepal, most people do not know insurance is a necessity and it is not at the top of their priority list. However, the fact remains that insurance is a valuable tool to protect a person’s family from unforeseen events that can severely damage their financial futures. Sadly, not many people pay enough attention to this fact.