French insurer Axa SA could be on the hook for potential payouts tied to the devastating fire that ripped through Notre-Dame Cathedral, but the government’s ownership of the landmark means the insurance industry could be spared from significant losses tied to the blaze.
Axa provided some coverage to two of the companies working on construction projects at the cathedral in Paris, Europe Echafaudage and Le Bras Freres, and its art group was involved in the insurance of certain artifacts and ceremonial objects in the cathedral, a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
The structure itself, which is classified as a historical monument, is self-insured by the state, not by Axa, she said.
The fire tore through Notre Dame on Monday, burning the building’s roof and causing its spire to collapse. French Culture Minister Franck Riester said that more than 800 million euros ($920 million) has been pledged to help restore the building.
The fire will end up being less of an issue for the insurance market because of the state’s ties to the cathedral, according to Robert LeBlanc, chairman and chief executive officer of Aon France, part of insurance brokerage Aon Plc.
“These things can be repaired,” said Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, which has helped protect churches against fire risks for more than 130 years and doesn’t insure Notre Dame.
“It’s just a very long job, it’s a very complicated job because of the experts that are needed, and it is undoubtedly a very expensive job.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation. The Financial Times reported Axa’s exposure late Tuesday.