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Satellite insurers suffer in 2018

February 13, 2019

By Chris Forrester

Some insurance suppliers love the satellite business. After all, you have to cover quite a few cars to match a satellite that would be worth around $250 million (€220.9m), or more.

But 2018 was not a good year. In fact it was catastrophic, with premiums paid by satellite operators at just $459 million, and that represents a fall of 35 per cent on 2017. Indeed, according to statistics from insurance giant AXA it was the lowest-ever premium tally for 25 years.

Premiums were down, but payout claims were up and look like staying that way with fewer future orders for high-value geo-stationary satellites. Back in the glory years of 2008-2012 the industry was seeing premiums measured in the $1 billion range annually, with commensurate profits.

Claims last year topped $600 million, and underwriters say they don’t expect an improvement in premiums next year, or even 2020-2021.

Last year’s heavy claims included $183 million for Maxar’s Digital Globe craft. YahSat’s Al-Yah 3, even though it ended up working in orbit, still worked out at a loss of $102 million (because of a problem in the initial launch).

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