This paper is motivated by the progressive liberalisation of the European insurance market in recent years. It uses stochastic frontier analysis to estimate Flexible Fourier cost functions for European insurance companies. Separate frontiers are estimated for life, non-life and composite companies. We adopt a maximum likelihood approach to estimation in which the variance of both one-sided and two-sided error terms is modelled jointly with the frontiers. This approach allows us to simultaneously control for the impact of heteroskedasticity on the estimation of scale economies as well as estimating the effect of firm size and market structure on X-inefficiency. The study draws on Standard & Poor's Eurothesys data set of financial reports for the period 1995 to 2001. This provides technical and non-technical accounts at year-end for life, non-life and composite insurance businesses in 14 major European countries. Our estimates suggest that over this period most European insurers were operating under conditions of decreasing costs (increasing returns to scale), and that company size and domestic market share were significant factors determining X-inefficiency. Larger firms, and those with high market shares, tend to have higher levels of cost inefficiency.
- Cost efficiency
- Stochastic frontier analysis