Thursday, January 6, 2011

Valuation of assets for the purpose of insurance

The purpose of insurance as an effective mechanism of protection will loose its
meaning if the insurance policies do not respond in full measure in case of claims
because of inadequacies in scope of coverage and sum insured. There is therefore
a need to properly understand the relation between the indemnity provided and
the sum insured. The indemnity provided in a insurance policy can be on market
value, reinstatement value or agreed value basis. The principle of average will
apply if the sum insured does not correctly reflect the value of assets and the
same is under insured. Proper valuation of asset for the purpose of fixing sum
insured is therefore very important.
Why insurance?
Insurance provide protection and physical assets are insured for one of the
following two reasons.
1) The replacement of asset or income or both lost through the occurrence
of specified contingencies
2) Relief from legal liabilities incurred through the occurrence of
specified contingencies
In the first category falls all property insurance e.g. fire, motor, marine, etc. and
in the second category fall all liability coverages. For the purpose of this article
we shall be concentrating on the asset valuation for fixing sum insured, under
fire and engineering insurances for building, plant & machinery and stock.
The sum insured and its adequacy
The sum insured under an insurance policy serves three purposes:
1) It is the amount on which premium is charged
2) It is the maximum liability of the insurer within the policy
3) It is basis for the calculation of under insurance in the event of claim
Insurance can provide full protection only when the sum insured is adequate
both when the insurance is first purchased as also at every subsequent
renewals. Thus the adequacy of sum insured is very critical to the insured if
the policy is “subject to condition of average.” The following implications
should be noted.
a) If the sum insured is too low (under insurance) and if there is a
big claim, the insured would end up receiving a settlement
which would be substantially less than the full settlement of the
claim thereby defeating the very purpose of taking insurance.
b) Over insurance would only mean over payment of premium.
No benefits will accrue at the time of claim. Hence this is over
payment without corresponding benefit.
The adequacy of sum insured is thus very important and critical for the insured.
It is important for the insurer also in the sense that the insured feels cheated if he
does not get adequate indemnity because of under insurance and it may strain
the insurer’s relationship with clients. Clients expect necessary advice on this
account from the insurer who they believe are experts and must exhibit
professionalism. However, there is tendency on the part of the insured also to
save on premium. But the insurers must do their part of the duty on rendering
advice on sum insured to avoid stress in relationship at the time of claim.
Asset Valuation
The assets are valued for different purposes e.g. for taxes, balance sheet, merger
and acquisition, etc. They are also valued for the purpose of insurance. There are
various methods of valuation. Choice of appropriate valuation method depends
upon the purpose of valuation as also on the nature of assets involved. Let’s
briefly examine the various methods employed for valuation purpose and then
examine the current practices being followed in respect of valuation of assets for
the purpose of insurance. The various methods used for valuation are as under:
1) Valuation based on replacement cost basis: Here the cost of a new
machine of similar nature, make and capacity if available is found out.
This cost will represent the value on replacement cost basis.
2) Good as new: There are situation where machine / plant is working
satisfactorily because of good maintenance. In such situation, this
valuation method is used which represents the original actual cost less
depreciation but adding back the maintenance cost.
3) Sum of part valuation: This method of valuation is used where the
equipment is not of composite nature. In this method all the different
units / component are valued separately and then added up to arrive
at the composite value. But this method has the inherent risk of
technological process in that if one part is damaged but not available,
the entire assembly becomes scrap. The loss in such situation is not
limited to that part only.
4) Fair value method: This represents the value in exchange. This method
of valuation is applicable to assets that can be currently exchanged in
the market for value e.g. whatever may be the cost of production of
LPG, its value in the market for sale in exchange for cash is the fair
5) Depreciation method:
a. Book Value: This represents the written down value of the assets in
the books of accounts. In this first year, this represents the actual
cost of the asset and with each passing year appropriate
depreciation is charged and the value of the asset is accordingly
reduced. Over a period of time, the asset value become so low that
it will not reflect the true worth of asset.
b. Market Value: In this method depreciation is allowed on current
replacement value of the asset for the number of years it has been
in use to arrive at market value.
Asset valuation for fixing sum insured
For insurance purpose generally market value concept is employed. However, it
should be noted that in its first year the book value and the market value may be
the same. Market value represents the amount at which assets of the same age
and specification can be bought and sold. It generally takes into account both
depreciation because of use and appreciation because of inflation.
It should be appreciated that the purpose of insurance is to get complete
indemnity in case of claim and hence any valuation method of assets used for
insurance purpose (i.e. fixing of sum insured) must take this important concern
into account. The basis of indemnity under fire and engineering class of business
is generally provided on either of the following two methods.
(1) Indemnity basis
(2) Reinstatement value basis
Under certain circumstances and if agreed upon by the insurance company the
indemnity is also provided on “Agreed Value” basis.
Indemnity Basis: The value here is related to the age, present condition and
suitability for use of the asset and hence depreciation because of age and use is
taken into account. In case of claim, there will be financial strain on the insured.
Reinstatement value basis: No depreciation is deducted and the settlement of
claim is on “new for old” basis. It will reflect the cost of replacing the existing
asset by a new asset of similar type, capacity and utility. The insured here will
have least financial strain.
Agreed value: Under special circumstances, policies are issued on agreed value
also e.g. residual value insurance. We shall discuss this in more details
The insurance companies are reluctant to issue policies on reinstatement value
basis / agreed value basis because of moral hazard concerns.
For the purpose of valuation of assets for fixing sum insured’s, let’s divide assets
into the following groups:
1) Building, furniture, fixture, etc.
2) Plant & machinery
3) Stocks
This division is useful because each group has its own peculiarities &
characteristics and hence need a separate treatment for valuation purpose.
Building, Furniture Fixture, etc.: For insurance of building –
- Value of the land is to be excluded.
- The plinth and foundation do not get damaged in fire and hence may
be excluded. Value of compound wall is to be included.
- But for earthquake extension, the same is to be insured as a separate
item without corresponding insurance against fire perils.
- Sum insured for above the ground level building should be the same
for both earthquake extension and the main fire policy.
- The value of embedded items either underground or in the walls /
roofs should form part of the valuation and by way of suitable
wordings in the policy this intent should be reflected and made
The building are generally insured on one of the following basis by the insured
1) Original cost basis
2) Book value basis
3) Market value basis
4) Reinstatement value basis
Sum insured will be different under each basis.
Original cost basis:
This is the historical cost at which the building was acquired / constructed and
capitalized. This can be the basis of sum insured during the first year of its
acquisition / construction. With the passage of time this value has to be adjusted
for depreciation due to its age and appreciation in value due to inflation.
Book value basis:
The book value represents the written down value of assets after providing for
depreciation on the original cost from year to year basis. This will lead to heavy
under insurance with the passage of time except in case of new building in its
first year of insurance.
Market value basis:
This represents the amount at which property of the same age and condition can
be bought or sold. This value takes into account both depreciation to the physical
asset and appreciation due to inflation. The current cost of construction of similar
building is taken and to this is applied depreciation for age, usage, maintenance,
wear & tear, etc. The generally accepted method currently in use for building is
to apply unit cost rate to the gross external areas of the building or cubic
measurement of building and adjust subsequently to suit particular
circumstances (built up area and construction specification).
Reinstatement value basis:
This represents the value of similar new property – No depreciation is charged
and hence if the fire policy is taken under “reinstatement values” clause the
property will be replaced without financial strain to the insured.
From the above it is clear that for a new building during its first year any
valuation method would do for the purpose of insurance. But in subsequent
years, it has to be preferably on reinstatement value basis.
Plant & machinery: working out the sum insured for plant and machinery
specially old one pose serious problems. For brand new plant and machinery for
its first year of insurance, the original capital cost may be adequate. But this cost
may require upword revision at the time of renewal of the very first insurance.
However in case of very large industrial risks, which takes years to complete, the
capitalized cost in the first year itself may not be sufficient to cover the
replacement cost in case of claim. Insurance companies generally insure plant
and machinery on either “market value basis” or “reinstatement value basis.”
Market value: This method is suitable for machines of common type, used for
general purposes, freely available in the market for sale / purchase. On the
current replacement cost of the machines / plant is applied suitable depreciation
(for age, use, wear and tear, etc.) to arrive at market value. The market value,
thus, refers to the cost at the current price level of the asset of similar type and
nature. Obviously this method is not suitable for plant and machinery of special
nature that are not regularly bought and sold in the market.
Reinstatement value basis: the reinstatement value is represented by the cost of
replacing the asset by new items of similar nature and capacity. Thus it gives
new price of an old machine if available as new today. In case of old plant and
machinery, we have serious problems in working out the reinstatement value i.e.
the price cost of the original plant and machinery on current day replacement
cost of a new similar plant and machinery. Obviously original cost of
capitalization can not be a basis for sum insured. The problems associated with
such exercise are:
1) Manufacturer stopping production of such machines
2) Manufacturer could have gone out of existence
3) Technological improvements taking place in the machines resulting
a. Higher output / productivity
b. Lesser manpower requirement
c. Lesser fuel consumption and operating cost
d. Additional range of function / compactness of machine, etc.
4) The machinery and technology may have become obsolete
a. Functional obsolescence: Improved and efficient new version of
the machine replaces the older machines that suffer from functional
b. Economic obsolescence: External factors (such as government
planning & industrial policy, legal environment, indigenous
developments, etc.) which brings about absence of demand for
products / machine thereby creating economic obsolescence.
Working out reinstatement value when
1) The current price of similar machine / plant is available
2) The current price of similar machine / plant is not available
1) When available: Suitable adjustment to be made for technological
advancements from the current price of similar machine / plant to
which is added current landed cost plus installation costs, etc.
2) When not available: In such situation, use is made of what is called
escalation method. If the insured’s capital block account is maintained
uptodate, the appropriate replacement cost of the entire plant and
machinery can be computed by applying a rate of escalation which is
in tune with RBI index and which takes care of concerns on account of
custom duty / rate of exchange, etc.
Insurance on Residual Value:
For very old plant & machinery, which has run its life as per manufacturers
prescription may have reached zero value. But because of good maintenance the
plant and machinery is performing its duty. In such situation the insurance is
sometimes done on residual value, which represent 25% to 50% of the actual cost,
the balance being treated as depreciation. Such policies in insurance parlance are
treated as agreed value basis. There can also be agreed value policies covering
work of art, etc.
Valuations of stock for insurance do not pose much difficulty. Stocks may be of
- Raw material
- Stock in process
- Finished goods
Raw materials are valued at net cost of acquisition at which the raw material is
available to the insured.
Stock in process is valued at – the maximum value of stock in process the cost
of raw materials, other inputs and processing cost at any given time.
Finished goods – Net manufacturing cost including factory overheads.
From the above, it is clear that asset valuation for the purpose of insurance is a
complicated and tricky affair. While theoretically it is easy to work out an
algorithm for calculating the sum insured and its revision at every renewal, in
practice it is a time consuming complicated job calling for acumen and
specialized skill.
Fire insurance policies are generally sold on either market value (indemnity)
basis or reinstatement value basis. As far as insurance company is concerned, it
only wants the sum insured figure to be declared by the insured. In any case, the
onus of proof lies with the insured in the event of the claims. Inadequate sum
insured, therefore, has serious implication for the insured.
In case of old plant of high value and specialized nature fixing of sum insured, is
of critical nature and should be handled carefully. There is therefore a need to
engage a trained professionally approved valuer for this job. It has many
- Confirmation that it has been assessed in accordance with good practice
and sound methodology.
- The valuation will provide an accurate basis for adjusting the sum insured
at subsequent renewals of policies.
- Take care of the avoidable outgo of premium because of over insurance
and inadequate compensation because of under insurance in the event of
- While carrying out the valuation exercise, measurements, details of
construction, important information about machinery and installation and
other critical details are recorded which can be of great use in the event of
- Valuation done by a professional valuer becomes a sound basis for
negotiation of claims.
- Valuation of each building separately provides basis for calculation of fire
premium which depends upon type of construction and occupancies.
Assets revaluation: It is desirable that organization have a prograame to revalue
assets every five years and review those at every renewal. Review should include
assessment of the assets current condition, required maintenance and estimated
remaining useful life. This is an exercise which should form part of the risk
management approach of the organizations. Inflationary trend should be kept in
mind while adjusting sum insured.
An attempt has been made in this article to highlight the importance of sum
insured adequacy which has serious implication for the insured. The insurer
would be failing in their professional duty towards their client if they do not
educate and inform them on this account. The various methods of valuation in
general have been discussed and those relating to valuation of asset for the
purpose of insurance have been discussed in detail. Insurance policies are issued
on market value i.e. indemnity basis or reinstatement value basis. These concepts
have been introduced again in a generalized manner. Special situation will
require specific special approach. There cannot be “fitall” approach for all
eventualities and situation. Attempt has been made to highlight the method of
approach in keeping with principle of indemnity. In complex situations, it has
been suggested to go in for “valuation” by an outside professional expert. The
advantages of such an approach have also been discussed.

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