Press speculation has grown around a possible tightening of the sanctions regime by the newly elected Republican-controlled Congress, since the Republicans are viewed as more aggressive regarding Russia. Sanctions aim to persuade President Putin to alter his policy in Ukraine.
Sogaz, a Russian insurance company, is viewed as a possible target of a tighter sanctions regime since two of its shareholders are on the list of sanctioned companies. It has sought to avoid this, first by reducing Bank Rossiya's stake below 50% and more recently by Gazprom buying more of it so that non-sanctioned companies now own a majority of the company.
The key issue for Sogaz is Reinsurance: it has net assets of R50billion ($1.5bn at end 2013 exchange rates, just under $1bn today) but insures risks of trillions of roubles each. It buys reinsurance from Western reinsurers; without them no Russian insurer could underwrite vast prestige risks like satellites or the property risk on Rusatom's nuclear power stations.
We surmise that Sogaz would be inconvenienced, rather than crippled, by sanctions: but this would be less than catastrophic and the impact of the fall in the oil price, triggering a slump in the Rouble and a recession in Russia, combined with already deteriorating conditions in the Russian insurance market, are already a greater problem than sanctions could be.