Genworth delays float plan after big payouts

Mortgage insurer Genworth Financial is unlikely to proceed with plans to list its Australian arm until late this year at the earliest, after a jump in payouts squeezed earnings last year.

Mortgage insurer Genworth Financial is unlikely to proceed with plans to list its Australian arm until late this year at the earliest, after a jump in payouts squeezed earnings last year.

The delay to the float plans, outlined in its latest financial accounts, came after the company suffered the payout jump in response to higher mortgage delinquencies, especially among self-employed borrowers.

US-listed Genworth, the country's largest provider of lenders mortgage insurance, first said it was planning to float 40 per cent of its Australian business in late 2011.

But the float, estimated to worth about $800 million, has been delayed repeatedly. In April last year the initial public offering was pushed back to the first half of this year after a spike in claims caused it to post a loss in the first quarter.

Now the most recent financial statements, filed last week, say it will occur "late" this year at the earliest.

"The ultimate parent anticipates selling up to 40 per cent of its holdings in the Australian business, and the partial sale is not expected to occur prior to late 2013, subject to market valuation and regulatory considerations," the statements say.

Lenders mortgage insurance is designed to protect banks when borrowers default on their home loans, and is a requirement for many home buyers without large deposits.

In the year to December, Genworth's Australian gross revenue from premiums jumped 37 per cent to $545 million, a trend it says was caused by increased activity in the housing market, which has been buoyed by lower interest rates.

At the same time, however, the ratio of claims to income from premiums increased sharply from 50 per cent to 71 per cent because of higher-than-expected claims from delinquencies.

The company said the losses were driven by weaker conditions in Queensland, and increased claims to cover self-employed borrowers who had signed up in 2007 and 2008.

Its US-listed parent company last month said net operating earnings from the Australian division had risen 9 per cent to $62 million in the December quarter, and mortgage delinquency rates had fallen.

Genworth's credit rating was last month downgraded by Moody's, after it found that Australian mortgage insurers would find a severe downturn in housing markets such as that experienced in the US "challenging".

The company last month announced former St George Bank boss Paul Fegan as its chief financial officer.

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