Buffett Watch

Warren Buffett's Bond Insurer Now Licensed in 44 States Plus DC

Warren Buffett's new bond insurer, Berkshire Hathaway Assurance Corp., is now licensed by 44 states and the District of Columbia.

In a statement today, the takes credit for "providing a streamlined, uniform application process ... (to) facilitate the speedy entrance of a well-capitalized company into the bond insurance marketplace."

The NAIC told us back in late January that it was working with Berkshire Hathaway on a single "streamlined" application for licenses to sell bond insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

In today's release, the group declares victory: "It is a remarkable success story that state insurance regulators, by working together, licensed a new financial guaranty insurer in nearly every state - not within months, but within weeks."  (It was just late December that Buffett revealed the new venture.)

The holdouts, at least so far, are Massachusetts, Minnesota, Idaho, New Mexico and North Carolina.

While Berkshire is licensed in almost every state, it isn't necessarily going to write policies in all of them, at least not right away.  It will presumably move to expand from its current "tip-toe" into the market based on demand for its services and the state of the muni-bond market.

As we noted in Why California Isn't Buying Warren Buffett's Bond Insurance over the weekend, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer is saying he has no interest in sending any business Buffett's way.  He's unhappy with what he perceives as Berkshire's support of different rating standards for corporate and government debt.  The result: Berkshire's prices as too high given what he sees as the very small risk of default for most muni bonds.  

Lockyer is even talking about getting California's big pension funds involved in the creation of a new bond insurer to compete with Berkshire.

Current Berkshire price:

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