ASSURED GUARANTY LTD AGO
November 16, 2009 - 9:45pm EST by
max318
2009 2010
Price: 21.50 EPS n/a $5.00
Shares Out. (in M): 157 P/E n/a 4x
Market Cap (in $M): 3,392 P/FCF n/a n/a
Net Debt (in $M): 0 EBIT 0 0
TEV ($): 0 TEV/EBIT n/a n/a

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Description

 

Ticker               L / S                 Price                 Date                 Name                                        Sector

AGO                 Long                $21.66              11/16/09            Assured Guaranty                    Muni Bond Insurance

$M   Consensus Current FY FY + 1 FY + 2
Stock Price $21.66 Bitmap EPS -$1.06 $3.70 $4.41
Fully Diluted Shrs M 157 P / E -20.4x 5.9x 4.9x
Mkt Cap 3,401        
Stated GAAP BVPS $17.52        
Stated GAAP Tang BVPS $16.88 Q309 run rate implies $7.20 in EPS in "no loss" muni environment
BVPS EX MTM, including full reserve for likely losses $21.27        
Adj BVPS (adding Unearned Premium - Def Acq Costs) $50.69        
   

 

 

Quick Pitch:  Target:  $50.  AGO had it's last major downside taken away Friday 11/13/09 as Moody's said it would keep the insurer "AA" if it completed a set of reasonably achievable capital plans.  AGO equity will revalue upwards from the probabilistic pricing in of "soft run off" liquidation value (which would have been driven by a Moody's downgrade) to a reasonable multiple on EPS power.  In a normalized loss reserving environment (which should be approaching by Q110), AGO should have an operating earnings run rate of $7.20 annually and is currently the only primary muni bond insurer.  It's massive earnings power (due to a very accretive Q309 acquisition of FSA) has not yet been evaluated by the street.  The severe threat of a Moody's downgrade has kept analysts away from the stock.  AGO is now able to pick and choose their muni wraps, raise prices, and add a tremendous amount of long-lived muni bond insurance to their book of business.  Visibility towards $7 in persistent operating EPS should help move the stock to $50, which will still be a discount to adjusted book value per share.

 

 

Details Outline:

1)  11/10/09 pre-release of Q309 EPS indicated a $7.20 operating EPS run rate.

2)  Visibility to the end of reserving for structured product losses is now here.

3)  FSA acquisition is massively accretive, closed in Q309 and not yet evaluated by the street.

4)  Moody's downgrade risk was divergently negative relative to S&P and Fitch and was a major source of distraction / frustration for the management team.

5)  Several near term catalysts.

 

 

1)  11/10/09 pre-release of Q309 EPS indicated a $7.20 operating EPS run rate.

 

$M  
Q309 Op Income Adjusted for Merger, 1x Expenses 74
Financial Guaranty Contacts Loss Reserving 105.7
Credit Derivative Loss Reserving 103
Total Op Income in Normalized Loss Environment 282.7
Q309 Normalized Op Income Per Share $1.81
Annualized $7.22

 

http://www.assuredguaranty.com/news/article.aspx?id=1353893

 

Although the "zero loss" underwriting business model of muni bond insurance is challenged by some noted investors (when it benefits them to do so), it is a business model that existed well through the 70's, 80's, 90's and has existed through the financial crisis.  Their have been minimal losses on muni wraps through history, and many defaults often result in a full recovery from a new, tax-backed issue.  Jefferson County was one recent loss.  Losses have generally been confined to small, speculative muni issues that go uninsured.  Muni wrappers function as "real" rating agencies - they actually do granular work on their rated issues and approve only "zero loss" issues.

 

 

2)  Visibility to the end of reserving for structured product losses is here

The vast majority of the reserve building of AGO & FSA has been from their structured RMBS exposure.  Here's what the combined company will look like on insured par exposure:

$B Net Par Outstanding        
  Total Insured Par US Public Finance US Structured Fin International
Assured Guaranty Corp. 128 49 60 19
Assured Guaranty Re 119 76 21 21
FSA 416 287 83 46
         
Total Proforma AGO 663 412 165 86
 

 

AGO / FSA have been building their structured loss reserves for several quarters.  They update realistic economic / default assumptions each quarter and add to their reserves based on assumed losses over the life of each contract.  At this point we have seen the "hockey stick" growth of 30-60 day defaults in RMBS deals move to a "plateau" as the burn out of speculative mortgage borrowers has occurred.  High unemployment will keep defaults persistently high, but more predictable.

 

In terms of buckets generating the most loss reserves, it has generally been the $24B of remaining RMBS net par across both companies, and the worst ~15% of those deals (the ones with the low subordination levels).  Up through Q209, the combined companies had taken $2.7B of reserving charges.  In addition to this, AGO's acquisition of FSA was for $800M, or less than 1/3 of it's $2.8B of book value at the time of the deal (that already included $2.3B of reserving through Q209).  (More on this later).

 

Here are the details on AGO's & FSA's reserving through Q209, given each problematic bucket of exposure.  (Note that FSA's table doesn't include it's full public finance exposure):

FSA Structured Exposures & Reserving          
  Total Net Par Q209 Incurred H209 Net Loss and Reserves
$M Outstanding Losses Incurred Losses LAE Reserves % of Par
Alt-A CES 922.0 -66.8 -88.4 207.5 23%
Prime HELOC 4,276.0 -24.4 171.4 329.0 8%
Alt-A first lien 1,474.0 61.8 102.6 222.4 15%
Alt-A option ARMs 2,438.0 93.7 177.8 490.5 20%
Subprime 2,413.0 9.8 27.4 90.9 4%
Total U.S. RMBS 11,523.0 74.1 390.8 1,340.3 12%
           
NIMs 102.0 -2.0 9.8 24.9 24%
Other structure finance 18,399.0 6.1 5.7 22.3 0%
Public finance 56,412.0 1.0 23.9 153.9 0%
Financial products 11,340.0 -2.0 -199.8 13.4 0%
Total non-derivative financial guaranty 97,776.0 77.2 230.4 1,554.8 2%
           
Credit Impairment on Credit          
Derivatives in the Insured Portfolio 505.0 43.4 66.1 147.6 29%
           
           
           
AGO Structured Exposures & Reserving          
  Total Net Par Q209 Incurred H209 Net Loss and  
$M Outstanding Losses Incurred Losses LAE Reserves  
Prime first lien 729.0   -0.1    
Prime closed end seconds 314.0 20.4 27.9 36.0 11%
Prime HELOC 767.0 7.2 9.8 8.9 1%
Alt-A first lien 4,430.0 18.9 17.6 43.4 1%
Alt-A option ARMs 1,215.0 15.2 24.8 45.6 4%
Subprime first lien 5,015.0 5.3 11.6 26.7 1%
Total U.S. RMBS 12,471.0 67.2 91.5 160.6 1%
           
Other structured finance 49,736.0 -1.6 -11.9 34.5 0%
Public finance 65,491.0 6.9 15.4 22.5 0%
Total Financial Guaranty 127,698.0 72.5 95.0 217.6 0%
           
           
           
Proforma AGO/FSA Approx Total Reserve Level     1,920.0  
 

 

 

 

3)  FSA acquisition is massively accretive, closed in Q309 and not evaluated by the street yet.

The AGO acquisition of FSA, closed on July 1, will create a massively accretive effect on AGO's reported EPS.  AGO paid $800M, an almost $2B discount to FSA's book value at the time (which had already been hit with $2.3B+ of reserving). 

 

This is resulting in a massive $1.6B unearned premium reserve being booked (instead of negative goodwill) to decrease the purchase price of FSA to the market transaction price.  This is a massive cookie jar to AGO's earnings, and we can start to see the effect in Q309.  Basically, the FSA half of AGO will have to work through that UPR and amortize it into earnings before any additional reserving gets done on FSA's book.  Preliminary indications from AGO indicate that there will few one time boosts to Q309 earnings and the operating rate shown above in point # 1 is sustainable.

 

The Q309 earnings prerelease of Nov 10th indicated ~$275M reserving done in Q309 - that by definition must be mostly on the AGO book.  This appears to be a "kitchen sink" reserve to create the last messy quarter.  Now they can go forward with the FSA deal closed.  It makes sense that AGO's reserve levels end up being smaller than FSA's, because we know from AGO's detailed disclosures that FSA had far more problematic, low subordination RMBS deals wrapped.

 

 

4)  Moody's downgrade risk was divergently negative relative to S&P & Fitch and was a major focus and source of distraction / frustration for the management team.

 

If you've spent the last few months talking to AGO and participating in street presentations and conference calls, you know that the discussion was so focused on Moody's that AGO management had little time to discuss the positive effects of the FSA deal.

 

AGO has been valued at a "semi-run off" value -- trading at a discount to book value + NPV of unearned premium.  The total NPV in a run off is $50.69.  This is even as it was growing its muni business in Q309 at a very strong pace, as the last man standing to underwrite primary muni bond insurance.  During 2009, AGO has been wrapping close to 20% of the U.S. market that would be eligible for wraps while dramatically increasing its underwriting standards and making some increases to prices.

 

The main reason AGO had this discount valuation is because of severe concerns that MCO would downgrade AGO to a "A" level from "AA", thereby severely impairing AGO's ability to wrap new muni issues (which are usually "A" themselves).

 

As of Thursday Nov 12th after the close, that fear has largely been lifted.  MCO announced they would expect to confirm "AA" at Assured Guaranty Corp (the main subsid underwriting new muni business at AGO) if AGO accomplishes reasonable capital raise plans.  From the Moody's press release: 

 

"However, Moody's stated that capital strengthening initiatives under consideration by the group could result in a conclusion of the rating review with a confirmation at the Aa3 rating level, negative outlook, if fully implemented. Absent such initiatives, Moody's would expect to lower AGC's rating into the single-A range."

 

AGO put out a press release last night detailing their capital raise plans.  I have spent about 2 hours on the phone with the lead MCO analyst on AGO (Arlene Isaacs-Lowe) in October.  This may not appear to be a final resolution on the downgrade risk, but it is.  I spent a good amount of time discussing capital initiatives and possible equity raises with MCO - this is very favorable conclusion to their review.

 

There was a fear that the capital raise would be $1.5B - $2.5B, severely diluting the stock.  Management has said to me they would rather go into "soft runoff" and not raise that amount.  Instead the raise was detailed at $300M.  ~10% dilution at these levels (but AGO has indicated they may be able to do a less dilutive raise than even that).

 

By all indications, MCO did not have a detailed, deal level model in its capital estimates for AGO (whereas S&P and Fitch did and are relatively positive on the company).  MCO was ignoring the positive benefits of the extremely high levels of subordination in AGO's optically ugly structured exposures.

 

 

Catalyst

5)  Several near term catalysts.

Nov 17th earnings and perhaps a discussion of how they will complete the capital plans to satisfy Moody's.  Dec 1st analyst day in NYC.  Between Nov 17th and Dec 1st, AGO has indicated that it will be working on a "re-education plan" with street analysts to adjust for the FSA deal.  Street analysts are largely neutral on the stock, valuing it off of sub $20 per share stated GAAP book value and earnings estimates for 2003 below $3 per share.  It is likely there will be strong upward revisions to 2010 estimates in the next few weeks.

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    Description

     

    Ticker               L / S                 Price                 Date                 Name                                        Sector

    AGO                 Long                $21.66              11/16/09            Assured Guaranty                    Muni Bond Insurance

    $M   Consensus Current FY FY + 1 FY + 2
    Stock Price $21.66 Bitmap EPS -$1.06 $3.70 $4.41
    Fully Diluted Shrs M 157 P / E -20.4x 5.9x 4.9x
    Mkt Cap 3,401        
    Stated GAAP BVPS $17.52        
    Stated GAAP Tang BVPS $16.88 Q309 run rate implies $7.20 in EPS in "no loss" muni environment
    BVPS EX MTM, including full reserve for likely losses $21.27        
    Adj BVPS (adding Unearned Premium - Def Acq Costs) $50.69        
       

     

     

    Quick Pitch:  Target:  $50.  AGO had it's last major downside taken away Friday 11/13/09 as Moody's said it would keep the insurer "AA" if it completed a set of reasonably achievable capital plans.  AGO equity will revalue upwards from the probabilistic pricing in of "soft run off" liquidation value (which would have been driven by a Moody's downgrade) to a reasonable multiple on EPS power.  In a normalized loss reserving environment (which should be approaching by Q110), AGO should have an operating earnings run rate of $7.20 annually and is currently the only primary muni bond insurer.  It's massive earnings power (due to a very accretive Q309 acquisition of FSA) has not yet been evaluated by the street.  The severe threat of a Moody's downgrade has kept analysts away from the stock.  AGO is now able to pick and choose their muni wraps, raise prices, and add a tremendous amount of long-lived muni bond insurance to their book of business.  Visibility towards $7 in persistent operating EPS should help move the stock to $50, which will still be a discount to adjusted book value per share.

     

     

    Details Outline:

    1)  11/10/09 pre-release of Q309 EPS indicated a $7.20 operating EPS run rate.

    2)  Visibility to the end of reserving for structured product losses is now here.

    3)  FSA acquisition is massively accretive, closed in Q309 and not yet evaluated by the street.

    4)  Moody's downgrade risk was divergently negative relative to S&P and Fitch and was a major source of distraction / frustration for the management team.

    5)  Several near term catalysts.

     

     

    1)  11/10/09 pre-release of Q309 EPS indicated a $7.20 operating EPS run rate.

     

    $M  
    Q309 Op Income Adjusted for Merger, 1x Expenses 74
    Financial Guaranty Contacts Loss Reserving 105.7
    Credit Derivative Loss Reserving 103
    Total Op Income in Normalized Loss Environment 282.7
    Q309 Normalized Op Income Per Share $1.81
    Annualized $7.22

     

    http://www.assuredguaranty.com/news/article.aspx?id=1353893

     

    Although the "zero loss" underwriting business model of muni bond insurance is challenged by some noted investors (when it benefits them to do so), it is a business model that existed well through the 70's, 80's, 90's and has existed through the financial crisis.  Their have been minimal losses on muni wraps through history, and many defaults often result in a full recovery from a new, tax-backed issue.  Jefferson County was one recent loss.  Losses have generally been confined to small, speculative muni issues that go uninsured.  Muni wrappers function as "real" rating agencies - they actually do granular work on their rated issues and approve only "zero loss" issues.

     

     

    2)  Visibility to the end of reserving for structured product losses is here

    The vast majority of the reserve building of AGO & FSA has been from their structured RMBS exposure.  Here's what the combined company will look like on insured par exposure:

    $B Net Par Outstanding        
      Total Insured Par US Public Finance US Structured Fin International
    Assured Guaranty Corp. 128 49 60 19
    Assured Guaranty Re 119 76 21 21
    FSA 416 287 83 46
             
    Total Proforma AGO 663 412 165 86
     

     

    AGO / FSA have been building their structured loss reserves for several quarters.  They update realistic economic / default assumptions each quarter and add to their reserves based on assumed losses over the life of each contract.  At this point we have seen the "hockey stick" growth of 30-60 day defaults in RMBS deals move to a "plateau" as the burn out of speculative mortgage borrowers has occurred.  High unemployment will keep defaults persistently high, but more predictable.

     

    In terms of buckets generating the most loss reserves, it has generally been the $24B of remaining RMBS net par across both companies, and the worst ~15% of those deals (the ones with the low subordination levels).  Up through Q209, the combined companies had taken $2.7B of reserving charges.  In addition to this, AGO's acquisition of FSA was for $800M, or less than 1/3 of it's $2.8B of book value at the time of the deal (that already included $2.3B of reserving through Q209).  (More on this later).

     

    Here are the details on AGO's & FSA's reserving through Q209, given each problematic bucket of exposure.  (Note that FSA's table doesn't include it's full public finance exposure):

    FSA Structured Exposures & Reserving          
      Total Net Par Q209 Incurred H209 Net Loss and Reserves
    $M Outstanding Losses Incurred Losses LAE Reserves % of Par
    Alt-A CES 922.0 -66.8 -88.4 207.5 23%
    Prime HELOC 4,276.0 -24.4 171.4 329.0 8%
    Alt-A first lien 1,474.0 61.8 102.6 222.4 15%
    Alt-A option ARMs 2,438.0 93.7 177.8 490.5 20%
    Subprime 2,413.0 9.8 27.4 90.9 4%
    Total U.S. RMBS 11,523.0 74.1 390.8 1,340.3 12%
               
    NIMs 102.0 -2.0 9.8 24.9 24%
    Other structure finance 18,399.0 6.1 5.7 22.3 0%
    Public finance 56,412.0 1.0 23.9 153.9 0%
    Financial products 11,340.0 -2.0 -199.8 13.4 0%
    Total non-derivative financial guaranty 97,776.0 77.2 230.4 1,554.8 2%
               
    Credit Impairment on Credit          
    Derivatives in the Insured Portfolio 505.0 43.4 66.1 147.6 29%
               
               
               
    AGO Structured Exposures & Reserving          
      Total Net Par Q209 Incurred H209 Net Loss and  
    $M Outstanding Losses Incurred Losses LAE Reserves  
    Prime first lien 729.0   -0.1    
    Prime closed end seconds 314.0 20.4 27.9 36.0 11%
    Prime HELOC 767.0 7.2 9.8 8.9 1%
    Alt-A first lien 4,430.0 18.9 17.6 43.4 1%
    Alt-A option ARMs 1,215.0 15.2 24.8 45.6 4%
    Subprime first lien 5,015.0 5.3 11.6 26.7 1%
    Total U.S. RMBS 12,471.0 67.2 91.5 160.6 1%
               
    Other structured finance 49,736.0 -1.6 -11.9 34.5 0%
    Public finance 65,491.0 6.9 15.4 22.5 0%
    Total Financial Guaranty 127,698.0 72.5 95.0 217.6 0%
               
               
               
    Proforma AGO/FSA Approx Total Reserve Level     1,920.0  
     

     

     

     

    3)  FSA acquisition is massively accretive, closed in Q309 and not evaluated by the street yet.

    The AGO acquisition of FSA, closed on July 1, will create a massively accretive effect on AGO's reported EPS.  AGO paid $800M, an almost $2B discount to FSA's book value at the time (which had already been hit with $2.3B+ of reserving). 

     

    This is resulting in a massive $1.6B unearned premium reserve being booked (instead of negative goodwill) to decrease the purchase price of FSA to the market transaction price.  This is a massive cookie jar to AGO's earnings, and we can start to see the effect in Q309.  Basically, the FSA half of AGO will have to work through that UPR and amortize it into earnings before any additional reserving gets done on FSA's book.  Preliminary indications from AGO indicate that there will few one time boosts to Q309 earnings and the operating rate shown above in point # 1 is sustainable.

     

    The Q309 earnings prerelease of Nov 10th indicated ~$275M reserving done in Q309 - that by definition must be mostly on the AGO book.  This appears to be a "kitchen sink" reserve to create the last messy quarter.  Now they can go forward with the FSA deal closed.  It makes sense that AGO's reserve levels end up being smaller than FSA's, because we know from AGO's detailed disclosures that FSA had far more problematic, low subordination RMBS deals wrapped.

     

     

    4)  Moody's downgrade risk was divergently negative relative to S&P & Fitch and was a major focus and source of distraction / frustration for the management team.

     

    If you've spent the last few months talking to AGO and participating in street presentations and conference calls, you know that the discussion was so focused on Moody's that AGO management had little time to discuss the positive effects of the FSA deal.

     

    AGO has been valued at a "semi-run off" value -- trading at a discount to book value + NPV of unearned premium.  The total NPV in a run off is $50.69.  This is even as it was growing its muni business in Q309 at a very strong pace, as the last man standing to underwrite primary muni bond insurance.  During 2009, AGO has been wrapping close to 20% of the U.S. market that would be eligible for wraps while dramatically increasing its underwriting standards and making some increases to prices.

     

    The main reason AGO had this discount valuation is because of severe concerns that MCO would downgrade AGO to a "A" level from "AA", thereby severely impairing AGO's ability to wrap new muni issues (which are usually "A" themselves).

     

    As of Thursday Nov 12th after the close, that fear has largely been lifted.  MCO announced they would expect to confirm "AA" at Assured Guaranty Corp (the main subsid underwriting new muni business at AGO) if AGO accomplishes reasonable capital raise plans.  From the Moody's press release: 

     

    "However, Moody's stated that capital strengthening initiatives under consideration by the group could result in a conclusion of the rating review with a confirmation at the Aa3 rating level, negative outlook, if fully implemented. Absent such initiatives, Moody's would expect to lower AGC's rating into the single-A range."

     

    AGO put out a press release last night detailing their capital raise plans.  I have spent about 2 hours on the phone with the lead MCO analyst on AGO (Arlene Isaacs-Lowe) in October.  This may not appear to be a final resolution on the downgrade risk, but it is.  I spent a good amount of time discussing capital initiatives and possible equity raises with MCO - this is very favorable conclusion to their review.

     

    There was a fear that the capital raise would be $1.5B - $2.5B, severely diluting the stock.  Management has said to me they would rather go into "soft runoff" and not raise that amount.  Instead the raise was detailed at $300M.  ~10% dilution at these levels (but AGO has indicated they may be able to do a less dilutive raise than even that).

     

    By all indications, MCO did not have a detailed, deal level model in its capital estimates for AGO (whereas S&P and Fitch did and are relatively positive on the company).  MCO was ignoring the positive benefits of the extremely high levels of subordination in AGO's optically ugly structured exposures.

     

     

    Catalyst

    5)  Several near term catalysts.

    Nov 17th earnings and perhaps a discussion of how they will complete the capital plans to satisfy Moody's.  Dec 1st analyst day in NYC.  Between Nov 17th and Dec 1st, AGO has indicated that it will be working on a "re-education plan" with street analysts to adjust for the FSA deal.  Street analysts are largely neutral on the stock, valuing it off of sub $20 per share stated GAAP book value and earnings estimates for 2003 below $3 per share.  It is likely there will be strong upward revisions to 2010 estimates in the next few weeks.

    Messages


    SubjectQ3 results
    Entry11/18/2009 04:22 PM
    Memberskyhawk887

    Market obviously liked the results. Any incremental thoughts? Thanks.


    Subjecteps power
    Entry11/19/2009 10:13 PM
    Membercompass868

    interesting idea.  isnt the $7 very enhanced by the cookie jar reserve you allude to?  understand you're valuing off adjusted book but any sense for what operating earnings are ex reserve release or any other one time stuff the frontloaded from this deal.  i read the release quickly and its confusing but i thought the takeaway was they are pulling forward a lot into the income statement that will run off relatively rapidly.


    SubjectUpdate?
    Entry06/22/2010 12:05 PM
    Membermm202
    I'd love to hear your current thoughts here. I thought that this was a great idea when you wrote it up, but it has been drilled since then..which makes me suspect that it's *probably* a strong buy here. But curious to know if that's your view since you know this company much better than I do. Great buying opp...or has the fundamental story changed enough here to justify the haircut it has taken? TIA.
    MM

    SubjectAny thoughts?
    Entry08/06/2010 05:12 PM
    Memberladera838
    Any thoughts based on today's release?  Thanks in advance.
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