Genworth Financial bought out

Imagine my initial surprise when I saw a news feed that Genworth had been bought out. Unfortunately for me, it was Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW) and not Genworth MI (TSX: MIC).

Genworth Financial is being taken over by China Oceanwide Holdings, chaired by Lu Zhiqiang, who apparently has a networth of $5 billion.

In the press release, there are scant details. They mentioned the buyout price and the intention of the purchaser to inject $1.1 billion of capital into Genworth to offset an upcoming 2018 bond maturity and shore up the life insurance subsidiary, but the release also explicitly stated a key point:

China Oceanwide has no current intention or future obligation to contribute additional capital to support Genworth’s legacy LTC business.

The LTC (long-term care) insurance business is what got Genworth into trouble in the first place, and its valuation is the primary reason why the company’s stated book value is substantially higher than its market value.

The press release also declared that this is primarily a financial acquisition rather than a strategic one, with management and operations being intact.

One wonders how long this will last.

Since Genworth Financial controls 57% of Genworth MI, it leads to the question of what the implications for the mortgage insurance industry will be – and it is not entirely clear to me up-front what these implications may be. Will the government of Canada be comfortable of 1/3rd of their country’s mortgage insurance being operated by a Chinese-owned entity? What is the financial incentive for China Oceanwide’s dealings with the mortgage insurance arms of Genworth Financial (noting they also own a majority stake in Australia’s mortgage insurance division)?

One thought that immediately comes to mind is that if Genworth Financial is not capital-starved, they will no longer be looking at ways to milking their subsidiaries for capital. In particular, if Genworth MI decides to do a share repurchase, they might opt to concentrate on buying back the public float (currently trading at a huge discount to book value) instead of proportionately allocating 57% of their buyback to their own shares (in effect, giving the parent company a dividend). This would be an incremental plus for Genworth MI.

Finally, one wonders what risks may lie in the acquisition closing – while it is scheduled for mid-2017, this is not a slam dunk by any means. Genworth Financial announced significant charges relating to the modelling of the actual expense profile of their LTC business and it is not surprising that they decided to sell out at the relatively meager price they did – there’s probably worse to come in the future.

However, as far as Genworth MI is concerned, right now it is business as usual. There hasn’t been anything posted to the SEC yet that will give me any more colour, but I am eager to read it.

(Update, early Monday morning: Genworth 8-K with fine-print of agreement)

Yes, I’ve read the document. Am I the only person on the planet that reads this type of stuff at 4:00am in the morning with my french-press coffee? Also, do they purposefully design these legal documents to be as inconveniently formatted as possible, i.e. no carriage returns or tabs at all?

A lot of standard clauses here, but some pertaining to subsidiary companies (including Genworth MI), including:

(page 47): Section 6.1,

the Company will not and will not permit its Subsidiaries (subject to the terms of the provisos in the definition of “Subsidiary” in Article X) to:

(viii) reclassify, split, combine, subdivide or redeem, purchase or otherwise acquire, directly or indirectly, any of its capital stock or securities convertible or exchangeable into or exercisable for any shares of its capital stock (other than

(A) the withholding of shares to satisfy withholding Tax obligations

(1) in respect of Company Equity Awards outstanding as of the date of this Agreement in accordance with their terms and, as applicable, the Stock Plans, in each case in effect on the date of this Agreement or
(2) in respect of equity awards issued by, or stock-based employee benefit plans of, the Specified Entities in their respective Ordinary Course of Business and

(B) the repurchase of shares of capital stock of Genworth Australia or Genworth Canada by Genworth Australia or Genworth Canada, as applicable, pursuant to share repurchase programs in effect as of the date hereof (or renewals thereof on substantially similar terms) with respect to such entities in accordance with their terms);

(note: Genworth MI’s NCIB expires on May 4, 2017)

(page 53): (e) During the period from the date hereof to the Effective Time or earlier termination of this Agreement, except as set forth on Section 6.1(e) of the Company Disclosure Letter, or as required by applicable Law or the rules of any stock exchange, the Company shall not, and shall cause any of its Subsidiaries that are record or beneficial owners of any capital stock of or equity interest in Genworth Canada or any of its Subsidiaries not to, without Parent’s prior written consent (which consent, in the case of clauses (ii)(B) and (iii) below (and, to the extent applicable to either clause (ii)(B) or clause (iii) below, clause (iv) below) shall not be unreasonably withheld, conditioned or delayed):

or (z) any share repurchases that would not decrease the percentage of the outstanding voting stock of Genworth Canada owned by the Company and its Subsidiaries as of the date hereof)

(note: Hmmm… this does open the door for repurchases).

I’m still unsure of the final implication on Genworth MI other than the fact that if this merger proceeds that the parent company is going to lean less on their subsidiaries for capital.

Genworth MI: Opposing arguments

Interesting article posted by David Desjardins on Seeking Alpha – he has purchased deep out-of-the-money put options (January 2018 puts with a strike of 18) and is clearly anticipating a drop further in the stock price.

His arguments can be summed up as follows:

1. Vancouver housing prices are ridiculously high, inventories are climbing, and prices are dropping;
2. Alberta unemployment is at relative highs and their delinquency rates should spike to 2010 levels;
3. Ontario housing prices have ascended and when they taper, delinquency rates should rise to averages;
4. Higher delinquencies will result in higher claims, and these claims will have a serious negative impact on the corporation;
5. Increased capital requirements, both as a result of claims but government regulatory changes, will require MIC to issue shares.

My comments:

1. My own overall thesis is that we will see a tapering of pricing demand in the urban real estate markets, but not a crash. The housing targeted to foreign interests will depreciate considerably (my own on-the-ground research has shown this has had a 10-15% impact on asking prices in BC), but these markets have not been eligible for mortgage insurance since July 7, 2012. The spill-over is what happens to the townhouses and condominiums in the Vancouver marketplace – there will be undoubtedly be price compression due to decreased demand as a result of decreased credit availability.

I do agree, however, that BC’s delinquency ratio (currently 0.07%) is abnormally low. Ontario’s (0.04%) is also abnormally low, but the company’s loss ratio guidance has always been above the expectations of what delinquency numbers would imply – original 2016 guidance was 25%-40%, but it is fairly obvious that it is going to be well under 40%, and they decreased the upper band for loss guidance to 35%.

2. If we see the delinquency rates as he suggests in his article (1% in BC, 0.7% in Ontario), then Genworth MI and CMHC will be in very rough shape. You would see a significantly lower stock price and you will be seeing huge political ripples about the whole Canadian housing market going from boom to bust in short order. Genworth MI’s peak delinquency rate was 0.3% in June 30, 2009 during the 2008/2009 global economic meltdown, and their loss ratio was 46%. It is not a stretch that a delinquency ratio larger than that would be the result of another meltdown in equal size, something I do not believe in the offering.

If the author’s worst case scenario of 1.5% delinquency rates occur in the insured mortgage space then you will be seeing crisis headlines that would ripple well beyond the financial state of the mortgage insurance industry.

It is also important to note that lending practices in the USA during 2008-2009 had significant differences than lending practices in Canada today.

3. Genworth MI, in general, has a healthier mortgage insurance portfolio than CMHC (I will leave speculation why out of this discussion). In Q2-2016, Genworth MI’s delinquency rate was 0.1%, CMHC was 0.32%. Any changes in regulatory burdens will impact CMHC’s profitability more so than Genworth MI; while this doesn’t directly impact whether there will be a spike in delinquencies, the federal government clearly does not want to knee-cap its own crown corporation in the process (one that generated about $550 million in net income to the Crown in the first half of this year).

4. Housing prices are the primary driver of claim severity, while unemployment is the primary driver of claims. Insured mortgages in Canada are full-recourse, which means the metric to watch for is unemployment and not housing prices. An unemployment rate of 7% nationally is not concerning for housing.

5. In Alberta, unemployment is anti-correlated with increases in energy prices and has probably peaked around 9%. Housing prices have decreased by 5-10% in the province, and delinquencies have climbed from 0.09% (Q2-2015) to 0.17% (Q2-2016), but this has been well-anticipated by management. Delinquencies peaked in Alberta at 0.62% for Genworth MI in Q4-2010 (the primary after-effect of oil going down to US$33 at the beginning of 2009). My estimate for delinquencies in Alberta should taper off around 0.25-0.3%.

6. The author appears to be misunderstanding the minimum capital test. The new regulations by OSFI introduce a new regime for minimum capital required to retain insured mortgages. While the statutory minimum is 100%, the supervisory target is 150%, and the company typically keeps an internal buffer higher than the supervisory target to ensure that month-to-month operations do not bring the ratio under 150% – the pro-forma at Q2-2016 was 153-156% of the new MCT, while I suspect the internal target will be somewhat higher. Genworth MI will book another $100 million of after-tax income for the second half of the year (after dividends) and this will push it to the 160% level. They do not need to raise capital – they just need to slow down issuing insurance and continue amortize their current book.

In addition, there are transitional arrangements to the new capital levels that will only “kick-in” after they are lower than the old capital test levels. That said, the old and the new capital test levels include a 20% buffer for “operational risk”, and since the new capital test levels are higher, this will also increase the capital required for operational risk (which in the new rules, is the operating capital minus the supplementary capital required for insuring mortgages in “hot” markets). This increase in required capital is transitioned in over a 3 year period.

The effect of these changes, however, will definitely increase capital required for mortgages, especially for lower ratio mortgages:


These changes affect MIC and also CMHC. CMHC is relatively less affected as in Q2-2016, its MCT level was 366%.

As a result of these changes, I expect transactional mortgage insurance origination to decrease significantly (guessing around 20%). As I said before, if Genworth MI stopped writing insurance, their share price would still increase as their liability book would shrink and capital is released for asset distribution.

7. 92% of MIC’s mortgage business is written on loans under $550,000. 8% would be between $550k to $1M. In relation to income capacity of borrowers, this does appear to be reasonable (especially considering the average gross debt service ratio of borrowers is a reasonable-sounding 24% on Q2-2016).

8. Even if home values drop below mortgage values, the option to strategically default in Canada is much, much more expensive due to full recourse rules on insured mortgages. As long as people are employed, they will continue paying their mortgages (albeit be a bit bitter about paying down a debt on a property that is valued less than the debt).

While the author’s “what-if” estimates in the event of a spike in delinquencies is an excellent stress test, they appear to stem from a scenario that is the result of something worse than what happened in 2008-2009. If the 2008-2009 scenario happened, there are far better short sales out there than Genworth MI (candidates that come to mind include HCG, EQB, FN, etc.).

Recall that Genworth MI went public in 2009 at CAD$19/share (the first window of opportunity after the financial crisis) and this was a forced IPO because Genworth Financial desperately needed to raise capital. CAD$19 back then was a fire-sale price and the entity today is larger and more profitable than it was back then (and also noting that they had 117.1 million shares outstanding after IPO, compared to 91.9 million today) – and they IPOed at 10% under book value, compared to 25% under book today!

Mortgage changes and Genworth MI valuation

By now the whole nation has heard of the proposed changes to mortgage financing and insurance requirements for Canadian mortgages.

Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) evaluated the impact of these changes and the payload of this was in the following paragraphs in their press release issued 4 minutes after the market opened yesterday:

Based on year-to-date 2016 data, we estimate that a little over one third of transactionally insured mortgages, predominantly for first time homebuyers, would have difficulty meeting the required debt service ratios and homebuyers would need to consider buying a lower priced property or increase the size of their down payment.

Furthermore, approximately 50% to 55% of our total portfolio new insurance written would no longer be eligible for mortgage insurance under the new Low Ratio mortgage insurance requirements.

The market proceeded to take MIC down from about $34 to $30 in short order, presumably on the basis that a third of their mortgage insurance market is going to get knee-capped due to customer income requirements.


It is important for the reader to understand the difference between transaction insurance (which the typical retail investor is familiar with) and portfolio insurance (which is where a financial institution purchases insurance on its own behalf for the purpose of assembling mortgages and securitizing them for selling in the secondary marketplace).

I am generally of the belief that despite these regulatory changes, Genworth MI is very much undervalued at present pricing. There are quite a few variables at play in this space, which I will go over as follows:

1. On the basis of premiums written, portfolio insurance was 13% of Genworth MI’s business in 2015. There was a regulatory change (dealing with mortgage substitutions and time limitations for portfolio insurance) that is effective July 1, 2016 which caused a one-time spike in portfolio insurance demand in Q2-2016. The portfolio insurance market was already effectively squelched by regulatory change and this further change will dampen it further.

Because portfolio insurance is written on low-leverage mortgages, they are akin to selling significantly out of the money put options on mortgages. In Q2-2016, Genworth MI insured $26 billion in mortgages via portfolio insurance, but this only generated $78 million (0.3%) in premiums (the median loan-to-value was 65-70%).

I would anticipate that portfolio insurance will be a very small part of the future mortgage insurance market – I’d be surprised to see more than $10 million in premiums each quarter going forward.

2. Transactional insurance is the bread and butter of the business. The question is how much of consumer demand for insurance will be eliminated because consumers failed to pass the affordability test (due to using the Bank of Canada posted rates) versus these consumers simply choosing to downsize their financing requirements to fit with the new mortgage insurance parameters.

My initial estimate would be that transaction insurance would slow down by about 1/6th of ambient levels instead of the 1/3rd backward-looking estimate given in the release. The past four quarters had $686 million in transactional premiums written. Going forward, I’d expect this to decline to around $570-ish.

3. Clearly these changes are going to result in less premiums written for Genworth MI (and also CMHC). However, this will not impact the existing mortgage insurance portfolio. If Genworth MI decided to stop underwriting all business and decided to run off its mortgage book, shareholders would still be looking at north of their Q2-2016 book value of $38.23/share as the company recognizes revenues. In a relatively normal environment, the company’s projected combined ratio should be around 45-50% (which is above what it has typically been) and the unearned premiums (currently of $2.08 billion) would likely amortize to another billion in pre-tax income if the book were to be run off.

The terminal value of the operation, with the assumption they decide to shut everything down, would be very well north of the existing book value, and most of this capital would be freed up completely after 5 years (customers would have their mortgages amortized to a point where mortgage losses would virtually be impossible).

There are various ways to value companies, but they all generally depend on a function of income expectation and how much cash can be liquidated from the balance sheet if operations were to cease. In Genworth’s case, there is a huge margin of error between current market value, current book value, and a reasonable expectation of performance in future years.

Simply put, the market is valuing Genworth MI as if it is going to lose money in the future. I do not believe this is a reasonable assumption even though this Canadian government appears hell-bent on pushing us into a tax-induced recession.

4. OFSI has released a draft proposal concerning the capital requirements of mortgage insurance companies, and in general this will require Genworth MI to retain more capital for its existing mortgage insurance portfolio. The reason is that the new capital requirements introduce a supplemental capital requirement for housing markets that are “hot”, which is determined by a price to income ratio. It is likely that mortgage insurers are going to raise premiums in 2017.

Genworth MI’s policy has been to keep its capital base above a certain level above its internal minimum (in the new proposal, the fraction will be above 150% of the revised minimum capital test) and distribute the rest of it in buybacks and dividends. Although the future rate of premium collection will be less, the company will be in a position to repurchase shares at a considerable discount to book value.

5. These changes in capital requirements force mortgage insurance companies to heavily err on the side of conservatism, both in terms of balance sheet strength and insuring customers that are quite strong (via the posted rate interest test).

6. The parent company (Genworth Financial) has stabilized considerably since last year and I still believe a low probability scenario is for them to exit the Canadian mortgage insurance market through a sale of the entity. They could certainly fetch more than CAD$30/share, but the question would be who the buyer would be – there are not a lot of obvious well-capitalized candidates, but I would think of Fairfax or even the CPPIB or a Canadian pension fund doing so.

7. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the government announcement of October 3, 2016 would be negative for transactional and portfolio insurance volumes, yet the market only reacted when Genworth announced the retrospective impact of the changes. Yes, I should have been there on the morning of October 4th and pounded the bid, but I was asleep at the switch and I would have expected the negative market reaction to be on October 3 and not a day after!

8. In relation to the rest of the financial entities trading on the TSX, Genworth MI is very much undervalued and the market has over-applied the negative effects of the regulatory change on the company by weighting its impact on future premiums written too heavily. Genworth MI could easily give its shareholders a boost by announcing a wind-down of operation and a release of capital as mortgage insurance policies amortize, but they will not do this simply because Canadian mortgage insurance is still too profitable. In the first half of 2016, they make approximately a 60% profit of every dollar of premium they recognize. Why give this up?

Where should Genworth MI be trading? Higher than what the market is currently valuing it. This is a fairly strong buy on my radar, despite the fact that it has been a long-term core holding since 2012 when I first invested.

Genworth MI – Despite housing slowdown, still undervalued


Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) has gone nowhere in the past three months, despite the corporation lowering losses from insurance claims and the housing market being relatively stable to date. The company trades at a 10% discount to book value, and also at a P/E of 9 (realizing that these two metrics are not the only ones that insurance companies should be valued by, but suffice to say, unless if the insurance written is completely bad, it is difficult to lose money when buying something under book and under a P/E of 10).

There are a few cautionary flags – the reduction of their portfolio insurance business (which allows third-party financing firms to securitize and sell their lower loan-to-value mortgages with portfolio insurance) and also the slowdown in housing sale volumes, combined with the attempts by the BC Government to quell foreign ownership with a 15% transfer tax for non-permanent residents or citizens.

In particular, the transfer tax has caused quite a quenching of the roaring housing fire that was occurring in the southwestern BC housing market. This in turn has spooked the various markets linked to residential real estate. However, it is my assessment that as it relates to mortgage insurance, the market has continually over-estimated the impact of the short-term gyrations in Canadian real estate.

What would cause issues is mortgage serviceability and this is a function of employment, not housing prices. Although there is correlation between housing prices and construction-related employment, if there is not mass unemployment it is difficult to see how somewhat lower housing prices would cause difficulties in the mortgage insurance space. Indeed, the $300 billion ceiling for private insurance in Canada seems to be more of a daunting barrier than the state of the actual insurance market.

It is worthy to note that during the depths of the 2008-2009 financial crisis that the loss ratio peaked out at 46% (June 30, 2009) and this still resulted in a profitable book for the firm. The subsequent combined ratio peaked at 62%, which means that for every dollar of revenue booked that the firm recorded a gross profit of 38 cents.

Also, the corporate has increased its quarterly dividend every year for the past 5 years – it is currently 42 cents and if prior patterns continue they will likely raise it to 45 cents per share. Although the yield is not important (cash generation is), there are various market participants out there that only care about yield and this would serve to boost the stock price.

Genworth MI Q2-2016 results review

Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) reported their 2nd quarter earnings results.

The results are reasonably positive for investors and a shade higher than what the market expectation would be.

Diluted book value per share goes to $38.23, up a dollar from the previous quarter (higher than net income minus dividends due to portfolio fluctuations).

Premiums written were $249 million, up significantly from $205 million in the Q2-2015, but this number was artificially higher due to the closing of the July 1, 2016 regulatory window for the issuance of portfolio insurance (i.e. future portfolio insurance issuances are likely to be significantly lower). Portfolio insurance written has been averaging about $24 million for the previous four quarters, but this quarter was $78 million. Transactional insurance (the type of insurance most people associate with mortgage insurance) was down 7% to $170 million.

Portfolio insurance has been quite profitable as the constituents of the loans are low loan-to-value ratio material – although the premiums received by the company are relatively low to the loans insured, these premiums are basically free money exchanged to entities so those other entities can free up the capital to make other loans. The government announced they were going to put a halt to this activity in the 2013 Budget as entities (e.g. HCG, EQB, etc.) were basically using government guarantees to increase their ability to perform higher amounts of mortgage lending. Now the lenders will have to take higher risk, which would potentially dampen the credit market for residential housing.

Other items of note include the following (quotations are from their MD&A):

The Company has reviewed the proposed methodology for calculating SCRIs and observed that Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria would breach their respective prescribed SCRI thresholds at the end of the first quarter of 2016. These metropolitan areas represent approximately 35% to 40% of transactional new insurance written in the first six months of 2016.

Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver would have been in breach of the prescribed SCRI thresholds since 2010 or earlier and are currently more than 15% above the respective SCRI threshold. The anticipated changes from the proposed new capital framework, including the proposed supplementary capital requirement may impact the regulatory capital requirements for the Company however the final impact will not be known until OSFI publishes the supplementary capital requirements. The Company expects that transactional and portfolio insurance premium rates may have to be increased for affected metropolitan areas as a result of the implementation of the new capital framework in 2017.

If the regulatory framework continues to tighten (i.e. more capital required for “hotter” markets), this would result in increased mortgage insurance rates and hence higher premiums written for future transactions – or perhaps premium surcharges for “hot” metropolitan areas. Not surprisingly, Vancouver is the epicentre of this.

During the quarter the Company entered into a $100 million senior unsecured revolving credit facility, which matures on May 20, 2019.

This was very mysterious. Genworth is solvent, their nearest debt maturity is not until June 15, 2020 ($275 million) and they have plenty of capital that they are using as a buffer until federal regulations are finalized. So why go through the bother to open up a credit facility? Odd.

(Update, August 3, 2016: Remarks were made in the conference call:

CFO: “It’s not earmarked at this time for any specific activity. It’s more in light of build-in financial flexibility to ensure that we’re nimble and whether this is core business opportunities in the MI business, for example, you saw the levels of bulk insurance as we did last quarter. If in the future other opportunities were to present themselves in our core business, and it require incremental capital, we certainly have long-term plans to fund that capital. We may use the facility for short-term need but it’s clearly not intended for a long-term portion of our capital structure.”)

The loss range for 2016 has been revised to 25% to 35%.

The company’s initial projections for losses were 25-40% for the year, but the upward range of this was lowered to 35%. For the first two quarters of the year the loss ratio averaged 22%. This is obviously a good sign for investors.

In order to help improve housing affordability, on July 25, 2016 the B.C. government introduced a four-pronged plan that includes an additional land transfer tax on foreign buyers. As of August 2nd, foreign individuals and corporations will be subject to an additional 15% land transfer tax on the purchase of residential property in Metro Vancouver. The company does not expect these changes to have a material impact on its business, as foreign borrowers are typically not eligible for high loan-to-value mortgage insurance.

I will parenthetically add that foreign buyers typically do not take out mortgages for properties either – these are cash payments as the real estate title is the vessel for storing cash offshore. Foreign investors would not have a requirement for mortgage insurance.

Also, delinquency rates have lowered from quarter-to-quarter. While Alberta and Saskatchewan have higher delinquencies, they have lowered significantly in Quebec. I would also estimate that the severity of the real estate market decrease in Alberta was less pronounced than projected.

Not everything is rosy, however. There are a couple other storm clouds worth noting:

1. The company has lost a considerable amount of money on its preferred shares. They have $49 million in unrealized losses as of the end of June on their preferred shares, which is down from $51 million at the end of March, but this is very sloppy pickings by their asset managers.

2. Private mortgage insurers are approaching a $300 billion cap:

The maximum outstanding insured exposure for all private insured mortgages permitted by the PRMHIA is $300 billion. The Company estimates, that as of March 31, 2016, the outstanding principal amount of insured mortgages under PRMHIA was $197 billion for Genworth-insured mortgages and $241 billion for all privately insured mortgages. While the federal government has increased the cap to ensure that the private sector can continue to compete with CMHC in the past as the total of the outstanding principal mortgage amounts has approached the legislative cap, there is no guarantee that this will continue. The Company estimates that the private sector will remain below the cap for the remainder of 2016 and the first half of 2017 based on the current market share of the private mortgage insurers and the forecasted size of the mortgage originations market.

The inability to capture more of the mortgage insurance market beyond $300 billion, needless to say, would be a negative – the company would have to run off the book and only acquire insurance at the rate that it expires. I am also not sure how Genworth would coordinate with the other private insurance company (Canada Guaranty) to collectively stay under the $300 billion mark. This is a line item that would need to be addressed in legislation, specifically the 2017 Budget, and I would not view the current government to be supportive of private industry in mortgage insurance markets.

Finally, I will observe that the company is unlikely to buy back shares or declare special dividends until such a point that the regulatory framework for capital holdings is solidified.

Overall, my conclusion still remains unchanged that Genworth MI appears to be somewhat undervalued at present (trading at 89% of book value, with a strong balance sheet and low loss ratios). The market is clearly pricing them lowly due to the increasing speculation of over-valuation of real estate pricing in Canada, in addition to the balance sheet issues faced by their parent company. Genworth MI appears to be very aware of the Canadian real estate issues at hand. As I have been long-since speculating, given the issues that are going on in the parent company (Genworth Financial), Genworth MI is a likely candidate to be taken over if Genworth Financial finds the correct (and willing) purchaser. The take-out price would most certainly be higher than the current market price.

Genworth MI update

I did not write an update to Genworth MI’s first quarter as it was relatively routine (albeit a slightly negative quarter in terms of premiums written). This decrease was due to the corporation being more conscious of what they were underwriting, in addition to slowdowns in oil-producing regions. Financially they continue to be wildly profitable, with a combined ratio of 42% and continuing to build book value (sitting at $37.23, about a 10% discount to market).

The company’s stock price has not gone anywhere over the past couple months:


I look at peer companies, both in the financing and REIT domains and see nothing catastrophic occurring there.

There are a few interesting undercurrents that Genworth MI is facing, including:

1. Issues at the Genworth Financial parent company (this may result in financial pressure on their holdings – indeed, one scenario for Genworth MI is that they will be liquidated, hopefully at book or a premium to book value!);
2. The new Liberal government elected in Canada may introduce some curbs or regulatory burdens (via OFSI) which would encumber the insurance operation and/or empower CMHC;
3. Impact of oil prices and on the Alberta/Saskatchewan housing markets, although delinquencies have not risen beyond expectations to date;
4. The general insanity that can be found in the Vancouver/Toronto housing markets;
5. Provincial governments enacting curbs on transaction volumes and generally suppressing volumes that would otherwise stimulate the mortgage insurance market.

In addition, there are known regulatory changes concerning portfolio insurance transactions that were effective July 1, 2016 which would serve to decrease premiums received in what would be a fairly low-risk insurance market (such loans have loan-to-values ratios of less than 80%). Fortunately, these transactions have typically only been 10-20% of the premiums written in any single quarter.

About CMHC, they continue to deliver worse results than Genworth MI (quarterly reports for CMHC here) and their fraction of insurance covered in the Canadian market continues to decrease – a question remains whether they will attempt to take more market share, which would serve to deflate Genworth MI’s future premiums written.

With their present insurance book, as long as there is no general property market crash, they will continue to book revenues as mortgages are amortized and converge to at least book value. They also will be generating an excess of capital which management can decide to repurchase shares or declare a special dividend (which they typically do in the second half of the year). At present prices both are acceptable options although I really thought they should have bought back shares in January and February.

Genworth MI is still valued cheaply, but of course was not the screaming bargain it was when it was below $25 earlier this year. There is still capital appreciation yet to be had. In the meantime, shareholders are paid to wait.

Genworth MI

It is quite obvious by trading action over the past month that some institution is accumulating shares of Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) and is sweeping up the supply that is being applied at existing prices. I loaded up in shares during the second half of January and bought a very small position in some out-of-the-money options (the Canadian options market is illiquid, high-spread, expensive to trade in and generally junky, but there was somebody on the ask that was not the market maker and at a reasonable price, I hit his ask). Genworth MI is once again the largest component in my portfolio.

It is difficult to understand how something trading at a greater than 1/3rd discount to tangible book value and giving a greater than 7% cash yield, and trading at a P/E of 8 can continue to trade so low unless if it can be explained by general paranoia (which exists on Canadian housing).

Insiders (as of February 22) have reported purchases of common shares of Genworth MI. They are not huge but it is something.

The reports of the Canadian housing market’s demise is clearly over-blown except in very narrow sectors that have traditionally had resource commodity concentration (looking at Fort McMurray as the prime example).

The underlying entity is incredibly profitable. The only real risk is whether the parent entity (NYSE: GNW) will sell Genworth MI out, which is a real possibility.

Such a sale, if done presently, would likely be done under book (CAD$36.82 presently). A sale at 10% under book ($33.14/share) would still be a 25-30% premium over current trading prices. The company’s P/E would still be 8 at this point and an acquisition would be instantly accretive to some other financial company.

This take-out price does not reflect my true value that the company should be trading at, which I would judge at least at book value. The Canadian economy, and thus residential mortgages servicing abilities, is not the most robust so the premium to book would be modest before I started to sell shares again. I also apply a general discount to majority-controlled entities, but suffice to say my target price is north of CAD$36.28.

Genworth Financial’s issues I do not want to get into in depth, but they have a pending May 22, 2018 debt maturity (bonds are trading at 87 cents on the dollar at the moment) and a series of maturities 2 years later (June 15, 2020, trading at 68 cents) that the market is getting panicky about. This may cause them to sell out their equity holdings in the mortgage insurance firms they have taken public (Canada and Australia), but it is a decision I do not think they would want to make lightly.

Genworth MI – 4th quarter 2015 report

Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) reported their 4th quarter and year-end earnings yesterday.

I have been covering Genworth MI since 2012. While I liquidated a significant portion of the company in 2014, as a result of the price depreciation exhibited over the past three months I have taken the liberty to once again make MIC the largest position in my portfolio (at prices from 22 to 25 a share) as I believe it is trading well below my estimate of their fair value. Companies trading at a discount of over 1/3rd of their tangible book value and at a P/E of 6 either are fraudulent (which is clearly not the case with Genworth MI) or have external sources of perceived stress causing such an intense discount.

Financial Statement Review

I will pick off some salient details of their report.

1. From year-to-year the balance sheet saw an increase of about CAD$450 million of real assets (cash, bonds, preferred shares, common stock) relative to the end of 2014. Roughly half of this was through an increase in deferred premiums (money collected for mortgage insurance that is held on the liability column of the balance sheet until it is recognized as actual revenue in accordance to a model for historical loss experience) and a good chunk through retained earnings.

2. Premiums written were up to $809 million for the year, compared to $640 million the year before (a 26% growth). You can thank the CMHC for this. Alberta went down from 26% in 2014 to 22% in 2015.

3. They continued to add to their preferred share portfolio; they sold their common shares and moved to preferred shares, which is still sitting on an unrealized loss position of $33 million on a $281 million cost base; this is better than Q3-2015 which was $42 million unrealized loss and $236 million, respectively. Given the existing valuation state of the Canadian preferred share market, shifting to preferred shares is a value-added decision especially when considering the positive tax consequences of inter-corporate dividend income for insurance companies. 92% of their portfolio is rated “P2” and the remainder is “P3”.

4. The company repurchased $50 million of shares and outstanding shares is down from 93.1 million at the end of 2014 to 91.8 million on December 2015.

5. The company’s debt maturing in 4.5 years has a yield to maturity of roughly 3.5% (traded at 109 cents on the dollar at year end). Their maturity at 8.25 years out was trading at a very slight premium and is YTM 4.2%. Back on November 6, the company was exploring a debenture offering. Their cost of raising debt capital seems to be relatively low, so it is curious why they never proceeded with it.

6. Delinquencies have not materially picked up in Q4-2015 (rate still is 0.1%).

7. Minimum capital test ratio goes from 227% to 233%. Management has pledged repeatedly that their target is “modestly above 220%” in terms of capital management. It is getting to the point where they will likely execute on another share buyback, and considering the huge discount to book value, they should consider a dutch auction at around CAD$25 to get those shares very cheaply off the books instead of dealing with a thin marketplace (recognizing that Genworth Financial owns 57% of the shares outstanding). As they have 13% in excess of 220%, this translates into about $203 million in excess capital.

If they managed to buy back 8 million shares for $200 million, they’d be able to increase book value by over a dollar a share! At existing valuations it would make complete sense for them to go private, but since Genworth Financial is facing huge financial challenges, they’re not the entity that is going to do it. This is a contributor to the depressed share price of Genworth MI (the market knows that Genworth Financial is facing pressure to sell the entire asset for a pittance).

8. The company expects lower amounts of mortgage originations in 2016. This will negatively impact premiums written in 2016. They did take 4% market share from CMHC in 2015, however, which may offset the decrease in originations.

9. Loss ratio is expected to be between 25-40%, which is more than the 20-30% guidance given for the 2015 year. Loss ratio guidance has always typically been conservative in nature. Considering the combined ratio for 2015 has been around 40%, an extra 10% on the loss side would put it at 50% and thus not anywhere close to endangering the profitability of the company.

Extra thoughts concerning valuation

Stated book value per diluted share is $36.82 – this is 35% less than the current market value of $23.91/share. If the company continues to book premiums written at $800 million in 2016 and maintain a combined ratio of 50% (30% loss, 20% expense), this would still be quite an undervalued entity.

I see two issues of market price stress:

1. The perception that the Canadian housing market will collapse and cause a huge wave of defaults which would bring mortgage insurers down like what happened in the USA in 2008;

2. Parent Genworth Financial’s issues spilling over onto Genworth MI – Genworth Financial needs money out of their subsidiaries and the trickle-down effect of dividends will not cut it for them. They can consider capital transactions (share buybacks) and keep their proportionate stake which enables them to bleed money out of the company at an accelerated pace, but this would still not be adequate for their situation. The market is likely taking the MIC subsidiary down in value on the implied assumption of a fire-sale of the 57% stake in the company. Of course, Genworth Financial would have to be completely desperate to do it at a 35% discount to book value (not to mention a P/E of 6), but the question here would be: Would they be willing to sell the whole thing at book?

Genworth MI Q3-2015 report

Late last month, Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) reported their 3rd quarter results for 2015.

The headline results were quite positive – premiums written were up from $217 to $260 million in 2015 vs. 2014 for the same quarter. As a result of premiums written increasing, revenues (premiums earned) will also be booked at an increasing rate for years to come. The loss and expense ratios remained in-line (at 21% and 19%, respectively) which still give an extraordinarily low combined ratio of 40%.

Management during the conference call pre-emptively went out of its way to explain the situation in Alberta and how they are well prepared for the upcoming onslaught of the double-whammy of increased unemployment (triggering mortgage defaults) and lowering property prices (triggering an increase of loss severity when mortgage claims do occur).

Balance-sheet wise, there were a couple negative developments. One is that the company dipped into preferred shares (selling their common share portfolio at the beginning of the year and investing in preferred shares) and are currently (as of September 30, 2015) sitting on an unrealized loss position of $42 million or 18% under the cost they paid for them (which in the preferred share market is huge!). It is currently 3.4% of their investment portfolio.

The company announced it is increasing its dividend to 42 cents per share quarterly instead of 39 cents, which is consistent with previous years’ behaviour to increment the dividend rate. They did telegraph on the conference call that they will likely not be repurchasing shares with their minimum capital test ratio at 227% even though their goal is to be “modestly above 220%”. The diluted shares outstanding has dropped from 95.6 million to 92.2 million from the end of Sepetember 2014 to 2015, but as I have discussed before, I generally view these period when market value is considerably under book value to be a golden opportunity to repurchase shares instead of issue dividends.

Conflicting with this apparent excess capital is the recent announcement that they are considering a debenture offering, which would allow them to raise more cheap capital. Would this be for leveraging purposes? They were quite successful at their last capital raising attempt – $160 million of debt raised on April 1, 2014 at a coupon of 4.242% and maturity of 10 years. Current market indications suggest they would receive roughly the same yield and maturity terms if they attempted another debt financing. Raising another $250 million in debt financing and attempting a dutch auction tender at around CAD$33/share seems to be a possibility at this stage.

Finance wise, it seems like a win-win: Raise money at 4.5%, fully tax-deductible interest expense. Use to repurchase shares that yield 5.1% (which is not a tax deductible cash outlay for the company). At a corporate tax rate of 26.5%, it is a gain of 1.8% after taxes! Remains to be seen if this is what they are thinking.

This might also be because the Genworth MI subsidiary is 57% owned by subsidiaries of Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW), which are facing financial challenges of their own – perhaps this will be an inexpensive way for Genworth Financial to raise a cheap $140 million of equity financing and still not give up any ownership in their prize profit-generating subsidiary?

Valuation-wise, Genworth MI is still trading at 15% below diluted book value which still puts it in value range, but this market valuation is clearly influenced on negative market perceptions of the Canadian real estate market – Genworth MI has still not recovered fully from the aftermath of the effects of the drop of crude oil prices. Still, if they effected a buyback at around CAD$33/share, it would still be accretive to their book value!

The company did dip below (dividend-adjusted) CAD$27/share on a couple occasions on single days in late July and August, but I was nowhere near nimble enough to capitalize on that freak trading activity. At such valuations (25% below book value) it would be difficult to not re-purchase shares that I sold in 2014 when MIC was trading at and above $40. The fundamentals of the company are that of a bond fund asset management, sprinkled with the profit generator of Canadian home mortgage insurance.

The other elephant in the room is questioning the effects of the change in the federal government – the new mandate for CMHC might be to get it more involved in mortgage insurance instead of being (relatively) non-interventionist like the previous Conservative government. This might functionally increase the competitive space for Genworth, but it remains to be seen what the Liberal Party’s intentions are with CMHC. The only line in the Liberal Platform is the following:

We will direct the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the new Canada Infrastructure Bank to provide financing to support the construction of new, affordable rental housing for middle- and low-income Canadians.

This does not appear to conflict with the profitability of Genworth MI. But one can never depend on any new majority government to stay strictly within their platform points!

Canadian Housing Financing Market

There are three companies that come to mind that are directly related to Canadian residential housing financing: Genworth MI (TSX: MIC), Home Capital Group (TSX: HCG), and Equitable Group (TSX: EQB).

I’ve done extensive research on all of them in the past and I am research-current with all three companies. I do own shares of MIC from the summer of 2012.

The first, which should be no surprise to regular readers here, deals with mortgage insurance. The second and third deal with direct financing of home mortgages (both first-line and refinancing). If a mortgage is required to be insured (which is usually the case for higher ratio mortgages and refinancings) then CMHC and Genworth MI get involved and charge a premium in exchange for the lender being able to give out a lower rate of interest.

HCG today announced that its mortgage originations were down from the previous year and its stock price cratered roughly 15% as of the time of this writing.

Genworth MI is down about 4% in sympathy, although Equitable Group is in the “white noise” range for the markets (i.e. relatively unchanged).

A downturn in mortgage originations will materially affect HCG and EQB’s profitability, while this has more of a muted effect on Genworth MI as cash proceeds from mortgage insurance are not accounted for as revenues until they are recognized according to prior experience (net of expected default losses).

The takeaway to this message is that if Genworth MI gets disproportionately trashed in the upcoming days, it is likely unwarranted as the fundamental profitability in Genworth MI is not through volume, but rather the solvency of the lenders in question. Genworth MI also has the advantage of being able to run off its insurance book and still receive a boost in market value as it is trading below book value, while HCG and EQB are trading above book value.

Option implied volatility does suggest that institutional interest suspects further volatility. Tread carefully as always!