MGIC Crashes and Burns: Are Peers Far Behind?


It's been a struggle for mortgage insurers since the housing crisis hit, but for a while it looked as if survivors MGIC Investment (NYS: MTG) , Radian Group (NYS: RDN) , and Genworth Financial (NYS: GNW) were on the road to recovery. Very recently, however, that road got a whole lot bumpier.

MGIC has investors in panic mode, after the insurer posted a $274 million loss for Q2, $122 million more than the net loss reported this time last year. Revenues were also down, despite the company's having nearly doubled the value of newly originated policies over the past year. Still, MGIC wrote only $2.2 billion in new insurance for June, compared with Radian's $3 billion. At the end of June, the company's risk-to-capital ratio was 30:1 -- quite a bit higher than the acceptable level of 25:1. The company admits that it may be prevented from issuing new insurance policies "on an uninterrupted basis."

Rivals are having their own problems
Radian has been working hard to hold back the acceptable risk ratio, but it crept up to 21:1 as of June 30, compared with 20.6:1 at the end of Q1. The company has been writing new insurance at top speed, increasing its business by 261% year over year. Radian posted a loss of $119 million, versus net income of $137 million last year. The company blamed lower premiums earned, as well as losses from financial products like derivatives. Investment gains were dinged, too -- $26 million compared with $44 million one year ago.

Genworth, stymied in its efforts to unload its mortgage insurance arm, also reported lower investment income as well as decreased premium income. Despite a decline in revenue of 5% year over year, the company did report net income of $76 million, a big improvement over last year's loss of $136 million.

Still, the company is between a rock and a hard place with the mortgage unit, which continues to drag the insurer down. CEO Martin Klein recently seemed to lean against spinning off the unit, citing lack of shareholder enthusiasm, while noting that just stopping writing new policies isn't a fix, either.

Genworth finds itself in the same rut as Old Republic (NYS: ORI) , which also jettisoned recent plans to sell of its mortgage insurance section after shareholder objections. Moody's dropped Old Republic's debt rating soon after the cancelled spin-off; the insurer has stopped writing new mortgage insurance.

Fool's take
The headwinds are strong against the industry, and it seems likely that things would be worse still if not for the decent mortgage-refinance market. The risk-to-capital issue weighs on all of these companies, and all have been forced to obtain waivers in various states to continue conducting business. How regulators handle MGIC's recent setback will no doubt be something competitors and investors alike will watch closely.

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Fool contributorAmanda Alixowns no shares in the companies mentioned above. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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