Intense competition in Hong Kong's overcrowded general insurance market is driving down the number of providers, according to the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers (HKFI). With 119 general insurance providers - ranging from some of the world's largest insurance firms with billions in assets to those with only a couple of employees - Hong Kong's number ranks as one of the world's highest. Japan, with a population of 120 million, has only 30, while Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia are all within similar range. HKFI chairman Chan Kin-po expects the number in Hong Kong to drop to 110 in the near future. 'Even with 110 it is still overcrowded,' he said. 'I think the number should continue to go down, though I really can't say when it will happen. It will probably happen gradually.' During the past decade the number of general insurance providers has fallen 30 per cent, from 169 in 1994. Mr Chan said the drop had done little to raise each firm's profit margin - being offset by a 'very slow' expansion of the market. In 1993, total premiums received by the whole general insurance industry reached HK$17 billion. Ten years later, the number grew 35 per cent to about $23 billion. The obvious winners from this scenario are consumers, as premiums in categories such as workers' compensation continue to fall. Mr Chan said the price war in workers' compensation insurance, which reached its peak in the first quarter of this year, would do more harm than good. 'It is not likely that they will be able to sustain these low prices and once they start rising again, you will see a lot of people complaining,' he said.