French catastrophe insurer Descartes raises $120 mln from investors

People walk through the financial and business district of La Defense near Paris
People walk through the financial and business district of La Defense in Puteaux near Paris, France, October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - French insurance firm Descartes Underwriting, which specialises in policies to protect large businesses against natural catastrophes, has raised $120 million from investors in early stage fundraising, it said on Monday.

Descartes did not give a figure for the valuation of the company, but CEO Tanguy Touffut said it was "above $500 million".

Descartes offers so-called parametric policies, which automatically pay out on property damage when a certain trigger, such as fire across a particular location, takes place.

They can provide quicker payouts than traditional policies, which use loss adjusters to calculate the size of losses, a process that can take months.

Descartes uses satellite imagery to identify damage. It said demand for its products had risen due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In some cases, it was impossible to send loss adjusters on the ground to assess the damage," Touffut said.

"If you were not using a parametric approach, there was no way to be able to understand the amount of the claim."

Descartes will use the capital to hire new staff, particularly software engineers, and subscribe to new data sources, Touffut said. The firm, which recently opened in London, is also planning to add other new offices, such as in Germany and Hong Kong.

There were $130 billion in insured losses from natural catastrophes globally in 2021, the fourth highest on record, with climate change acting as the "steroid" which increased their intensity, consultants Aon said last week.

Highland Europe and Eurazeo led Descartes' series B funding round, along with existing investors Serena, Cathay Innovation and Blackfin Capital Partners and new entrants Seaya Ventures and Mundi Ventures, Descartes said.

($1 = $1.0000)

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn. Editing by Jane Merriman

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