IInvestors looking for advantages during the market downturn need look no further than insurance companies. The S&P Insurance Select Industry Index has lost just 2% this year, outperforming a 16% drop for the S&P 500. It’s thanks to rising rates that increase the cash that insurers are cashing in on.
A total of 105 insurance companies participated this year Forbes Global 2000, ranking the world’s 2,000 largest public companies based on a composite score considering their revenues, profits, assets and market value. Insurers make up 11 of the top 100 on the list, with these giants spread across China, the United States, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Switzerland.
China’s Ping An Group remained the top-ranked insurance company in the Global 2000, even though it faced more challenges last year than many of its US and European counterparts and fell 11 places to 17th rank on the list. Its net profit in 2021 fell 29% to $15.7 billion as it booked a $6.4 billion write-down related to investments in China Fortune Land Development, one of several Chinese property developers riddled with debts that defaulted last year. Ping An had $32 billion invested in real estate assets at the end of 2021, accounting for 5.5 percent of its total investment assets, according to its annual report.
This exposure has contributed to its stock’s 50% decline since the start of 2021. But Ping An remains a formidable cash cow, with $181 million in revenue in 2021, up 7% year-on-year. other, and 227 million retail customers, up from 218 million at the end of 2020. Besides insurance, the conglomerate offers banking, asset management and healthcare services and holds $1.6 trillion of total assets.
U.S. insurance companies have generally held steady or gained ground this year, with UnitedHealth Group topping the list at No. 21. UnitedHealth’s $298 billion in 12-month revenue is seventh among all global public companies, just ahead of CVS Health and automakers like Toyota and Volkswagen, and its stock has gained 25% since last October. The company agreed to buy home healthcare company LHC Group for $5.4 billion in March.
CVS is classified as a pharmaceutical retailer rather than an insurance company, although it owns major insurer Aetna and ranks 42nd on the list. The German Allianz, the French AXA and China Life Insurance Co. complete the top five insurers.
New York-based MetLife and Connecticut-based health insurer Cigna also made the Global 2000 top 100, once again at No. 74 and No. 80, respectively. American International Group was one of the biggest winners on the list, rising from 439th place last year to 90th. AIG’s revenue grew 19% in 2021 to $52 billion, and it recorded $9.4 billion in net income attributable to shareholders compared to a net loss of $6 billion in 2020. AIG has been particularly battered by Covid, losing two-thirds of its market value in late February and March 2020, but its stock has recouped those losses over the past two years. Shares of MetLife and Cigna have also risen this year, avoiding broader market carnage.
Other American names on the list would be familiar to anyone used to watching TV commercials: Aflac, Allstate, Progressive and Travelers, to name a few. Allstate and Progressive trail only the private state farm in market share for auto insurance in the United States and are both ahead of Berkshire Hathaway’s Geico.
All of the insurance companies in this year’s Global 2000 are listed below.