Tags: Buffett | catastrophe | insurance | bonds

Buffett Sours on Catastrophe Insurance as Cat Insurance Bonds Proliferate

By    |   Friday, 09 May 2014 11:03 AM

Investors are snapping up catastrophe bonds like nobody's business, but that's not making Warren Buffett happy.

The money from "cat" bonds can help pay for claims related to catastrophes such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Strong demand for the bonds is pushing their yields down.

That in turn is forcing insurers of catastrophes to lower their premiums, which means lower profits for them, according to the Financial Times. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is one of those insurers — through its insurance subsidiary.

Berkshire has "constrained the volume of business" in its reinsurance unit because of "management’s assessment of the adequacy of premium rates," Berkshire said in regulatory filings, the Times reports.

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In other words, Berkshire is selling less catastrophe insurance because that insurance doesn't offer the company enough revenue.

Investors seeking high yields are flocking to catastrophe bonds, spurring insurance companies — apparently not including Berkshire's insurance unit — to issue them at the highest rate since the 2008-09 financial crisis, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Catastrophe bond issuance soared more than 100 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, to $1.2 billion, according to Willis Capital Markets & Advisory. It expects second-quarter issuance to reach a record peak of more than $3.5 billion, The Journal notes.

Investors' strong demand has pushed the bonds' yields to nine-year lows, the paper reports. The average quarterly yield slid to 5.22 percent as of last month, from 9.61 percent two years ago. That compares with 1.63 percent for a five-year Treasury note Friday morning.

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Investors are snapping up catastrophe bonds like nobody's business, but that's not making Warren Buffett happy.
Buffett, catastrophe, insurance, bonds
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2014-03-09
Friday, 09 May 2014 11:03 AM
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