ILS Roars into 2017 as Maturities Loom

Alternative capital markets continue to see robust activity and at least one major carrier is bullish for the future of insurance-linked securities (ILS), even as the added capacity continues to pressure rates overall.

The insurance-linked securities market saw $5.9 billion of issuance in 2016 and is off to a strong start in the first quarter of 2017 with more than $500 million of new issues already on the books for January, according to a new report from Swiss Re, which sees continued potential upside.

“Market conditions are extremely favorable at the moment and pipelines appear to be swelling, therefore it would not be entirely surprising to see the market challenge record issuance,” the company said in its new report, Insurance Linked Securities Market Update, Volume XXVI, February 2017.

The report also notes that the first half of 2017 will see the largest-ever amount of maturities for a half-year as some $6.4 billion in bonds mature, which could have the effect  of reducing the overall total market outstanding depending on how robust issuance continues to be during the first half of 2017.

“To put it in perspective, the approximately $6.4 billion of bonds set to mature in first half 2017 is larger than all but the four largest historical full-year issuances,” Swiss Re said in its report.

2016 was an unusual year for the ILS market in that the patterns of issuance by quarter differed from most years, according to the report.

“New issuance volumes were atypical,” said the report, with third quarter issuance larger for the first time than that of the second quarter, usually the busiest quarter for new issuance due to the U.S. wind season.

Further, fourth quarter issuance was the largest of the four quarterly totals. Total bonds outstanding remained at just around the record level of $24.1 billion, due largely to the outsized fourth-quarter levels of new issues.

In yet another market anomaly, the 20 new transactions in 2016 was the lowest number of new deals brought to market since 2009.

The average size of those deals, however, at approximately $300 million, was second only to 2014, which included the largest-ever catastrophe bond, the mammoth $1.5 billion Everglades Re from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Florida Citizens). The 2016 average deal size of $300 million was also 20% larger than that in 2015, according to Swiss Re.

U.S. wind and earthquake were as usual the most frequently secured perils, but they were joined by a slate of newer and diversifying perils including Canada earthquake, Europe windstorm, Japan typhoon and earthquake, Australia cyclone and earthquake, extreme morbidity, and for the first time since 2005, motor third party liability, according to the report.

The 2016 insurance-linked securities market also differed from other recent examples as it was momentarily roiled by the first Category 5 hurricane since Dean and Felix in 2007.

As Hurricane Matthew roared towards the Florida coast during the first days of October, it touched secondary trading, particularly among those bonds “focused in the state of Florida, especially Blue Halo, Laetere, First Coast and Everglades,” said the Swiss Re report.

“As we have observed in the past during hurricane events, notably during Hurricane Odile and Hurricane Patricia in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the ILS secondary market quickly responded to the threat of Hurricane Matthew in October,” according to the report. “Following the formation of the hurricane, bonds with large wind exposure in Florida and the Gulf traded at a significant discount as the hurricane approached the Florida coast.”

Trading quickly returned to normal, however, as Matthew eventually made landfall on Oct. 8 southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds.

Total alternative capital levels in the sector are now pegged at some $78 billion.

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