Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ackman Proposes Bond Insurer Split, Policyholder Veto

Hedge-fund manager William Ackman, who has bet against bond insurers including MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc., proposed restructuring the companies so more capital stays within their insurance subsidiaries.

Ackman, managing partner of Pershing Square Capital Management LP in New York, said the companies' insurance units should be divided into separate municipal and asset-backed businesses. Dividends should flow to the asset-backed unit from the stronger municipal insurance operation, he said in a proposal to regulators, lawmakers and banks yesterday.

State regulators are pressuring bond insurers to make sure the municipal debt they back retains its AAA credit ratings. Credit rating companies are reviewing whether the bond insurers still merit top ratings, given downgrades of securities backed by subprime mortgages that they guarantee.

The proposal ``offers the best prospect for protecting the most policyholders and ensuring a viable ongoing municipal bond insurance market,'' New York law firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, which performed an analysis for Pershing, said in a memo included with the presentation. Copies were obtained by Bloomberg News and confirmed by Ackman.

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