Report: Q1 Catastrophe Bond Market Sees Sustained Improvement

April 14, 2010

Catastrophe bond issuance conditions saw sustained improvement in the first quarter of 2010, reflecting the increase in prominence of the insurance linked securities (ILS) asset class.

Despite the continued improvement in market conditions, however, catastrophe bond issuance relative to the first quarter of 2009 was lighter than might have been expected, according to a briefing issued by Guy Carpenter & Co. LLC, and GC Securities, a division of MMC Securities Corp.

The briefing, “Cat Bond Update: First Quarter 2010,” states that sponsors posted two catastrophe bond transactions during the first quarter of 2010, resulting in $300 million of risk capital issued.

Responding to strong investor demand, both transactions closed within initial price guidance and were upsized relative to their announced placement targets. By comparison, the first quarter of 2009 saw three transactions totaling $575 million in risk capital issued.

“Though we have continued to see issuance conditions improve across the ILS market, there was somewhat less activity during the first quarter than many had anticipated,” David Priebe, chairman of Global Client Development, Guy Carpenter. “However, this should not be taken as an indicator of what to expect over the coming months, as the peak issuance periods for catastrophe bonds historically have been the second and fourth quarters. Our outlook for the remainder of the year remains bullish.”

Below are highlights of the briefing:

Q1 Issuance

  • A US$180 million transaction from Foundation Re III Ltd. was announced in January. Sponsored by The Hartford, it provides PCS-index-based protection for North Atlantic hurricanes causing insured losses along the U.S. gulf and eastern coasts. GC Securities served as co-manager on the transaction, which was upsized from the initially announced target of $100 million.
  • Swiss Re’s US$120 million Successor X Ltd. transaction provides multi-peril protection with different trigger types and different risk profiles, depending on tranche. The bond priced at initial guidance and also was upsized from an initial target size of US$75 million. It was the first catastrophe bond to utilize a PERILS-based trigger for its European windstorm exposure. (Guy Carpenter is a founding shareholder of PERILS, which aggregates and distributes industry-wide European natural catastrophe insurance data.)

Risk Capital Outstanding

  • Total risk capital outstanding declined during the first quarter to US$11.92 billion — a decrease of US$588 million, as US$300 million of new issuance was outstripped by US$888 million in maturities.
  • US$4.08 billion of risk capital is scheduled to mature prior to the end of 2010.

Issuance Composition

  • Of the US$300 million issued in the first quarter of 2010, US$180 million had exposure exclusively to U.S. hurricane peril, while US$80 million had exposure to both U.S. hurricane and European windstorm perils.
  • An additional US$40 million had exposure to U.S. hurricane, European windstorm, California earthquake and Japanese earthquake perils.

Loss Warranties

  • ILW pricing fell by 20 percent for U.S. hurricane-only and by 30 percent for U.S. earthquake-only protection.
  • Mindful of market conditions, protection sellers offered substantial reductions to secure renewal orders.
  • All sellers, with the exception of IPC Re, returned to the ILW market in 2010.

2010 Cat Bond Outlook

  • Cat bond spreads are roughly approximate with the traditional market and are acting as a spur to further issuance.
  • Though the rate of spread tightening may moderate, net cash inflows to sector — coupled with more than US$4 billion of scheduled maturities — should continue to exert downward pressure on spread levels.
  • Losses resulting from events such as the earthquake in Chile and European storm Xynthia have exerted a strain on reinsurers’ earnings but have not put cat bond layers in jeopardy.
  • Taking all factors into consideration, the second quarter of 2010 should prove significantly more active than the first, with the potential for 5 to 10 transactions, while total issuance for the year is expected between US$3 billion and US$5 billion.

“The argument in favor of locking significant amounts of multi-year fixed price capacity has become even more compelling in the context of the earthquake and winter storm activity we witnessed during the first quarter of the year,” said Chi Hum, global head of Distribution, GC Securities. “With this in mind, our issuance outlook for the second quarter of 2010 is positive, with between 5 to 10 new transactions expected across a wide variety of perils. We also anticipate more activity later in the year.”

The full briefing is available at www.GCCapitalIdeas.com.

Source: Guy Carpenter

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