BUSINESS

Intact Financial boosting home insurance premiums this fall due to weather

07/31/2013 07:29 EDT | Updated 09/30/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Some Canadians may be paying higher premiums for their home insurance starting this fall, as Intact Financial Corp. (TSX:IFC) boosts prices in light of recent flooding in Alberta and Toronto.

"The frequency of severe weather events in the past few weeks has made it clear to me that the sustainability of home insurance in its current form is being challenged," chief executive Charles Brindamour told analysts Wednesday.

"While we've made meaningful progress with underwriting profits, on average, over the past three years in that line of business, our approach needs to evolve further, given the environment we face and will likely face in the coming years."

Intact had a smaller second-quarter profit than last year but exceeded analyst estimates following several recent catastrophes that will result in millions of dollars of payouts by the insurance company.

On a per-share basis, the Toronto-based property and casualty insurer had 89 cents per share of net operating income.

That was down from $1.35 a year earlier but 16 cents a share better than anticipated.

Overall, Intact's net operating income fell 32 per cent to $123 million, down $57 million from $180 million a year ago.

Intact said the lower operating income in the quarter ended June 30 reflects losses related to storms and flooding in Alberta.

It warned earlier this month that it expected to take a hit in both the second and third quarter from claims related to flooding in Alberta, flash floods in Toronto and the Lac-Megantic train crash in Quebec in early July.

The company said it is tweaking its home insurance products, boosting premiums and working to educate clients on how to minimize potential future losses.

"The plan we have in mind will focus on ensuring customers have a better understanding of the risks they face and what they can do to better adapt to climate change," Brindamour said.

"This issue is not one solely affecting the insurance industry, but rather society as a whole, and as such, we will work with communities across the country to raise awareness as to how they can better protect themselves against the impacts of extreme weather."

Intact's net income in the second quarter was $103 million, down 20 per cent from $129 million a year earlier. Its net income fell to 73 cents per share from 95 cents per share.

Other insurance companies have also felt the impact of recent severe weather events.

Last week, Co-operators General Insurance Company (TSX:CCS.PR.C) dropped to a second-quarter loss of $5.9 million, mostly on costs from the floods in Alberta. The company said it lost around $77 million before taxes as a result of the Alberta floods, even after collecting reinsurance.

TD Bank Group (TSX:TD) said Tuesday the flooding in Toronto and Alberta will likely result in a loss for its insurance business, which would have been profitable without the weather-related expenses.

TD Insurance faces an after-tax net loss of between $240 million and $290 million for the most recent quarter.