Florida firm to enter isle insurance market
A Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company has won state approval to enter Hawaii's $2.5 billion property and casualty insurance market.
Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Universal Insurance Holdings Inc., gained approval on Aug. 18 to start offering policies, though the company expects to begin operations in 2009. The insurer intends to file for approval for its rates with the state insurance division by the end of the fourth quarter.
"With the approval to write property and casualty insurance in Hawaii, (Universal) continues with its plans for geographic expansion beyond Florida," Bradley Meier, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. The company also was given the green light to operate in South Carolina and has applied to expand in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
Besides increasing competition, "they're bringing additional capital to the marketplace," meaning more capacity to pay claims, which is particularly important in hurricane-prone areas such as Hawaii, said J.P. Schmidt, state insurance commissioner.
Hawaii has more than 40 property and casualty insurers, including 18 domestic companies, some of which offer hurricane, business liability, automobile and workers' compensation coverage.
State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. is the largest among Hawaii's property and casualty insurers, writing $82 million in premiums in 2007.
In 2006, the state's property and casualty domestic insurers collected $727 million in direct premiums, out-of-state insurers received $1.4 billion, while insurers based in another country collected $5.3 million.
Universal was created in February 1998 when it assumed the policies of the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association.
Universal issued approximately 432,000 homeowners' and dwelling fire insurance policies with direct unearned premiums totaling $274.6 million and about $513 million in initial premiums on policies that have not been canceled or expired as of June 30.