December 21, 2018 / 4:04 AM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-Australia's Suncorp flags $178 mln upper-limit cost from Sydney hailstorm

(Adds context, statement from Insurance Council, IAG, and share movement)

Dec 21 (Reuters) - Australian insurer Suncorp Group Ltd said on Friday a Sydney hailstorm on Thursday could cost the company a maximum A$250 million ($177.83 million), but it was too early to estimate the number of claims it could receive.

Suncorp had received about 7,800 claims by Friday noon, the company said in a statement, adding that its reinsurance programme for the year would limit the financial impact.

Extensive hail and water damage across Sydney and the Central Coast prompted the Insurance Council of Australia to declare a catastrophe. It estimated that losses by Friday noon were more than A$125 million and were expected to rise.

The council said about three-quarters of the claims insurers had received were for damage to cars and other vehicles, such as smashed windscreens and dented panels. There were also reports of “tennis ball” sized hailstones.

Earlier in the day, Insurance Australia Group said it had received more than 6,500 claims due to the storm and flagged an estimated A$169 million in costs.

Shares of Suncorp fell as much as 5.7 percent to a more than one-year low, amid weakness in the broader market.

$1 = 1.4059 Australian dollars Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry and Subhranshu Sahu

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