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Assured Guaranty insurance financial strength rating by Moody

Assured Guaranty  insurance financial strength rating by Moody, Assured insurance rating 2013 : Assured Guaranty Ltd. (AGO), the bond insurer whose biggest investor is Wilbur Ross, had its municipal bond unit downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited the industry’s “dramatic decline” since the subprime crisis.

Moody’s lowered the insurance financial strength rating of Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp. two levels to A2 from Aa3, Assured Guaranty Corp. three levels to A3 from Aa3, and Assured Guaranty Re Ltd. three levels to Baa1 from A1, the debt-rating company said in a statement today.

“Assured operates in an industry that has not recovered from the financial crisis,” Moody’s said. The Bermuda-based firm “will continue to struggle in the face of declining fundamentals, including a dramatic reduction in insurance usage, modest profitability and still-meaningful legacy risk.”

Assured was the only company left insuring municipal bonds after MBIA Inc. (MBI) and Ambac Assurance Corp. had their credit ratings slashed during the crisis amid losses on guarantees of subprime-mortgage-backed debt. Since then, U.S. municipalities have grown used to borrowing without the insurance that once kept their interest rates low, before the MBIA and Ambac downgrades sent floating rates soaring in 2007 and 2008.

While Assured avoided the losses that felled its rivals, its stock plunged 90 percent from June 2007 to March 2009. Ross bought $250 million worth of shares in February 2008 and committed $750 million in capital to the firm. The billionaire’s WL Ross & Co. now owns a 10.2 percent stake. Though the shares recovered later in 2009, they are little changed from their value in June of that year.

In 2011, 5.2 percent of the $290 billion of municipal debt sold in the U.S. was insured, all by Assured, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The protection once covered half the bonds offered by U.S. states and local governments.

Moody’s put the units of Assured Guaranty under review on March 20. Profitability over five and 10 years has “weakened notably,” lagging that of other specialty insurers, and will remain under pressure from low sales, Moody’s said today.

While Assured has modest debt, it may have “constrained” ability to access funds “on a cost-effective basis” if needed, said the Moody’s analysts, led by James Eck and Stanislas Rouyer.

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