trending Market Intelligence /marketintelligence/en/news-insights/trending/YkaRRHTLHrQ4C0UdRZAsUg2 content
BY CONTINUING TO USE THIS SITE, YOU ARE AGREEING TO OUR USE OF COOKIES. REVIEW OUR
PRIVACY & COOKIE NOTICE
Log in to other products

Login to Market Intelligence Platform

 /


Looking for more?

Contact Us

Request a Demo

You're one step closer to unlocking our suite of comprehensive and robust tools.

Fill out the form so we can connect you to the right person.

  • First Name*
  • Last Name*
  • Business Email *
  • Phone *
  • Company Name *
  • City *

* Required

In this list

Governance concerns still in focus as Long-Term Stock Exchange plans launch

A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

2018 US Property Casualty Insurance Market Report

Credit Analytics Case Study Poundworld Retail Ltd

Opinion: Look Outside the US for Insurance Blockchain Projects


Governance concerns still in focus as Long-Term Stock Exchange plans launch

A Silicon Valley-backed exchange venture wants to reinvent the role listing platforms play in the U.S. stock market.

With support from the likes of Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel, Long-Term Stock Exchange Inc., or LTSE, has its eyes set on becoming the 14th national securities exchange in the U.S., a process that started in November 2018 when it applied with the SEC.

But the exchange has no interest in resembling traditional Wall Street bourses such as the Intercontinental Exchange Inc.-owned New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc. While trading is the linchpin to most exchanges' business models, LTSE does not plan to compete on trading market share. Instead, the California-based venture hopes to become a stock exchange to bridge the growing divide between companies and their investors that it says has been caused by an increased focus on quarterly earnings guidance, intraday stock movements and analyst expectations, among other near-sighted factors.

"It's like a disease that is infecting modern capitalism," LTSE founder and CEO Eric Ries said of short-term pressures in an interview. "Our goal is to not build the best stock exchange in the world. Our goal is to fix this problem."

Across corporate America, executives and founders have increasingly complained that investors have grown fixated on short-term gains rather than their companies' long-term growth prospects.

Many executives, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Warren Buffett have advocated that companies move away from practices such as quarterly earnings guidance, which they say can unnecessarily increase investor focus on upcoming earnings reports. Executives say the increased focus on a company's near-term results or daily stock movements limits their ability to work on parts of their business with longer growth horizons, such as product development and new market entries.

LTSE hopes it can provide issuers with a listing home designed to incentivize long-term thinking among shareholders. How exactly it will do that remains unclear, though.

Within its SEC application, LTSE did not include any specific long-term-focused proposals, a decision management made to ensure the exchange receives SEC approval before pursuing any novel listing or voting structures, Ries said. No final decisions have been made about what models it will end up using, an LTSE spokesperson said.

The relatively straightforward exchange application could put LTSE on a fast track for SEC approval, as the agency is not in the business of determining "winners and losers," Security Traders Association President and CEO Jim Toes said in an interview. The SEC has until late July to issue a ruling on the application. But the boilerplate filing has still sparked questions up and down Wall Street about what exactly the exchange's platform could look like.

"There's a big distinction between saying you want to help long-term investors and implementing policies and rules that would actually do that," Ty Gellasch, executive director of the Healthy Markets Association, said in an interview.

LTSE had previously floated several ideas for its platform to market participants, including a voting structure crafted to reward shareholders with more voting rights the longer they held onto their shares.

But that model, which was at the heart of the exchange's now-terminated listings partnership with IEX Group Inc., stuck out "like a sore thumb to investors," who argued it would end up only entrenching management teams even further, Patrick McGurn, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc.'s special counsel and head of strategic research and analysis, said in an interview.

The Council of Institutional Investors, a corporate governance-focused group, wrote in a Jan. 22 comment letter that time-based voting structures can "disproportionately empower" executives, institutional investors or even governments that control a sizable stake of the company's shares. Many market participants are also concerned that the administrative responsibilities that would come with long-term voting structures may be too complicated, as institutional investors that typically hold massive portions of companies' stocks would need to track each share's voting rights.

LTSE plans to continue meeting with market participants about potential models it could explore, if its application is approved. But Ries said the concerns about its previously proposed voting structure are not germane to its pursuit of an exchange license because it was not part of its application.

Now, LTSE is discussing potential listings with companies as it gets closer to the SEC's deadline, Ries said.

The exchange's business model largely hinges on breaking into the highly competitive corporate listings market, a space long dominated by the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. The company also hopes to eventually expand its free-technology platforms, known as LTSE Tools, which provide clients insights into everything from a company's diversity-and-inclusion efforts to capitalization tables, all of which the exchange believes will help create a better relationship between investors and issuers on its venue.

"There should be differentiation by the company between the citizens of the republic versus the tourists," Ries said. "The company should have the option of rewarding those investors appropriately, and that's the heart of our model."



A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Feb. 08 2019 — The days of large bank acquirers pursuing deals to plant a flag in a new market might be receding as more buyers see transactions as a way to support much needed investments in technology.

In the latest Street Talk podcast, we discuss how BB&T Corp. touted that prospect when announcing its merger with SunTrust Banks Inc. and talk about the implications for future big-ticket transactions.

BB&T said the deal, one of the largest in U.S. banking history, will create a premier financial institution fueled by increased capacity to invest in innovation and talent. That stands in stark contrast to other blockbuster deals announced before the financial crisis, when buyers sought to create financial supermarkets or extend their footprints to new markets.

The size of BB&T's landmark transaction might have caught some members of the investment community off guard since Chairman and CEO Kelly King suggested the company was focused on organic growth and internal initiatives to drive costs lower. Still, while the merger of equals, the largest in BB&T's history, might have come as a surprise, it is part of a small group of large deals that received applause from the Street. The projected tangible book value accretion certainly played a role, but King also emphasized that the expansion would allow BB&T to achieve its previously stated goal of investing in technology to meet growing client demands.

Street Talk is a podcast hosted by S&P Global

Market Intelligence.

Listen on SoundCloud and iTunes.

"We'll transform platforms to drive out cost, that's important, supporting a more technologically enabled business. And we will gain incremental efficiencies through automation by enabling faster, smarter and more secure way of doing business," King said on a call to discuss the deal.

Investment bankers have suggested others could follow BB&T's move and use cost savings from transactions to upgrade technological offerings. Some advisers even predicted an increase in larger deals before the BB&T/SunTrust transaction surfaced, arguing that regional banks needed to play catch up with the nation's largest institutions and upgrade technology and digital channels to keep their clients happy.

For his part, King emphasized that the world has changed considerably, even in just the last 12 months. King echoed comments made during BB&T's investor day in November 2018, when the company rolled out a new initiative, dubbed "Disrupt or Die," focused on improving efficiency while investing in delivery platforms.

"We talked about disrupt to thrive. And this is it, this is kind of the ultimate disrupt to thrive," King said on the SunTrust call.

That theme has recently become more common in larger bank deals. Chemical Financial Corp. and TCF Financial Corp., for instance, highlighted the opportunity to invest in technology as a combined franchise when discussing their $3.55 billion MOE announced a few weeks ago. The companies said the deal would allow them to invest and innovate more efficiently, enhance customer-facing digital service offerings and streamline internal systems and processes.

WSFS Financial Corp. offered a similar assessment when announcing plans to buy Beneficial Bancorp Inc. for $1.5 billion in August 2018. While WSFS took heat for the price paid on the deal, the buyer outlined plans to use some expected cost savings to invest in digital channels and shrink its branch network considerably.

"This combination allows us to economically address the question in every bank's boardroom," WSFS Chairman Mark Turner said on the call. "That is, how and when are we going to adjust to the new realities of banking delivery to meet the changing customer behavior and their needs."

The Street seems to think it makes sense to spend on technology to play offense. Jeff Davis, managing director at Mercer Capital and a S&P Global Market Intelligence contributor, said in a recent blog post that scale might be required to protect existing returns in the face of improving technology. He said the Amazon effect could apply to deposit pricing as "informed depositors with mobile technology" could force increased competition. Davis said the same thing occurred in the asset management business, where cost-conscious investors utilized widely available information and easy-to-use technology to upend the industry's pricing model.

BB&T seems to recognize the threat of fintech and other technology providers creeping into its space. As King noted on the conference call to discuss the SunTrust merger, he wants to get ahead of that sea change and lead rather than follow.

Learn more about Market Intelligence
Request Demo

Insurance
2018 US Property Casualty Insurance Market Report

Highlights

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s 2018 US Property & Casualty Insurance Market Report offers a five-year outlook for the P&C sector, which should return to underwriting profitability for the first time since 2015.

Oct. 26 2018 — The federal tax reform President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2017 should help provide for an extended period of P&C industry profitability in 2018 and beyond as companies benefit from the lower corporate tax rate, but the impact is not limited to after-tax profitability. Actions by several prominent European-headquartered insurers to change the way certain of their U.S. business is reinsured materially impacted premium growth rates in the first quarter of 2018 and are likely to affect full-year results.

1 quarter does not a trend make

Historically strong results for the State Farm group in the first quarter
helped drive favorable comparisons in several key measures of underwriting profitability. To the extent the improvement continues for State Farm — the industry’s largest group based on direct premiums written — it could provide an additional tailwind for 2018 and beyond.

While there is a risk of recency bias in reading too much into a single quarter’s worth of data, the industry was already positioned for improved underwriting results in 2018. The second half of 2017 saw elevated catastrophe losses as the United States was hit by three landfall-making hurricanes and an unusual spate of fourth-quarter wildfires in California. Projected results for 2018 and subsequent years, all of which show combined ratios of less than 2017’s total of 103.5%, assume a normal catastrophe load.

Auto repairs in progress

Competition will remain intense in certain non-auto business lines given ample reinsurance capacity, high levels of industry capitalization and a macroeconomic environment that remains characterized by relatively slow growth in gross domestic product. Though modestly higher business volume driven by that economic expansion will help offset downward pressure on premiums, the industry will be challenged to achieve profitable top-line growth.

Trends in litigation will increasingly weigh on underwriting results in several business lines, including professional lines and the Florida homeowners business. They also could lead to greater demand for coverage, particularly for new and emerging risks.

The macro view

A rising federal funds rate and 10-year Treasury yields that have reached seven-year highs bode well for an industry that has long been suffering from low interest rates. And the relief cannot come quickly enough after the industry’s net yield on invested assets slipped to a new low of only 3.03% in 2017. Though projected results provide for increasing yields from that floor, the improvement will still take place gradually and is unlikely in and of itself to materially impact how companies are underwriting business

S&P Global Market Intelligence client? Click here to login and read the full 2018 US Property & Casualty Insurance Market Report.

The projections reflect various assumptions regarding premiums, losses and expenses. They are a product of a sum-of-the-parts analysis of individual business lines that is informed by third-party macroeconomic forecasts, historical trends and recent market observations that include first-quarter 2017 statutory results and anecdotal commentary about market conditions. Projected results are displayed on a total-filed basis and are not intended for application to individual states, regions or companies. S&P Global Market Intelligence reserves the right to update the projections at any time for any reason.

Learn more about Market Intelligence
Request Demo

U.S. Insurance Market Report – Property & Casualty (June 2017)

Learn More

Credit Analysis
Credit Analytics Case Study Poundworld Retail Ltd

Highlights

Co-written by Elijah Harden, Risk Services

Aug. 29 2018 — Bankruptcy Summary

Poundworld Retail Ltd (Poundworld) is a discount store operator located in the United Kingdom that on June 11, 2018, while operating around 350 stores, filed for administration in order to work to find a buyer for the chain1. S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Fundamental Probability of Default (Fundamental PD) increased nearly fivefold from 1.69% (an implied credit score of ‘bb-’2), a level that was better than the median general merchandise store in the U.K., to 10.39% (an implied credit score of ‘ccc+’) between fiscal year (FY) 2015 and FY 2016. To summarize, the increased Fundamental PD is similar to a credit score decline from ‘bb-’ to ‘ccc+’. The following year between FY 2016 and FY 2017, the Fundamental PD increased nearly 72% from 10.39% to 17.84% (an implied credit score of ‘ccc-’).

As of the reporting date November 10, 2016 for the period ending March 31, 2016, 19 months before the company filed for bankruptcy, Poundworld fell into ‘ccc’ range and was unable to recover. Poundworld’s inability to recover was due to competing in an increasingly competitive discount retail environment where there was less foot traffic to traditionally populous town centers and exchange rate pressure due to importing goods while the pound was weaker than the dollar3. This resulted in increasingly narrow margins, higher leverage, and decreasing profitability.

Exhibit 1: Fundamental PD Escalation

Business Description

Poundworld operates a chain of discount department stores in the United Kingdom and sells products through its online shop. It offers food and drinks, cleaning and laundry products, health and beauty products, home products, garden and outdoor supplies, pet care products, electrical products, stationery items, toys, baby products, party and gift products, and leisure time products. Poundworld was founded in 1974 and is based in Normanton, United Kingdom.

Fundamental Probability of Default Analysis

The analysis of S&P Global Market Intelligence’s one-year Fundamental PD reveals Poundworld had consistent implied credit scores in the ‘single b’ range for 10 of its 13 reporting periods from FY 2005 to FY 20174. In the time after FY 2012 the volatility of the implied credit scores increased in response to the volatility of Poundworld’s net income. As recently as FY2015, Poundworld, with a PD of 1.69% (implied credit score of ‘bb-‘), sat in the top half of UK general merchandise stores. However, in FY 2016 the company fell into the worst 25% of its UK peers with a PD of 10.39% (implied credit score of ‘ccc+’), roughly a year and a half before filing for administration. Subsequently, in FY 2017, it approached the worst 10% of its UK peers with a PD of 17.84% (implied credit score of ‘ccc’). This shows a notable escalation in risk, both on an absolute basis and with respect to its peers.

The Fundamental PD as of August 16, 2017 for the reporting period ended March 31, 2017 (FY 2017) highlights business and financial risk were significant problems for the company with vulnerable and highly leveraged scores, respectively. The most noteworthy factors contributing to the increased PD were total revenue, profit margin (net income to total revenue), a ratio of how much of every dollar earned is kept within the company, and current liabilities to net worth, a measure of how leveraged the company is/how much debt is used to finance the business. Poundworld experienced a revenue growth rate decline of 57.15% between FY 2015 and FY 2016 from 22.32% to 9.56% with a subsequent decline of 40.88% ultimately ending with a profit margin of 5.65% by FY 2017. As revenue growth for Poundworld slowed, the company became exceedingly leveraged. The average current liability to net worth ratio between FY 2013 and FY 2017 was an extraordinary 667%, signaling the company was unable to pay off debt obligations that were due within a year. In addition to the increasing leverage, Poundworld was battling diminishing profit margins until they eventually became negative, with an average profit margin of -0.02% between FY 2013 and FY 2017. Poundworld’s illiquid position made the company particularly vulnerable to the other operating expenses which totaled approximately £9MM in FY 2016 and FY 2017, which only carried the company closer to the brink of bankruptcy.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence as of July 19, 2018. For illustrative purposes only.
Note: Current Liabilities to Net Worth ratio in FY 2017 is actually -1317%, but the model assumes the worst possible profile and assigns the value of 10842%

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence as of July 19, 2018. For illustrative purposes only.

1 Unless otherwise noted, all information sourced from the S&P Capital IQ platform as of July 24, 2018.
2 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence PD scores from the credit ratings used by S&P Global Ratings.
3 Source: Financial Times, Poundworld files for bankruptcy, as published on June 11, 2018. https://www.ft.com/content/5f00154e-6d54-11e8-852d-d8b934ff5ffa
4 Source: S&P Capital IQ platform as of July 24, 2018.

Learn more about Market Intelligence
Request Demo

Credit Analytics Case Study The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc

Learn More

Credit Analytics Case Study: Carillion Plc

Learn More

Fintech
Opinion: Look Outside the US for Insurance Blockchain Projects

Aug. 28 2018 — Despite a wealth of conceptual applications for blockchain, U.S. insurers do not appear as engaged with the technology as their counterparts overseas. But if initiatives in Europe and Asia prove successful, U.S. insurers may plunge more deeply into the blockchain waters.

There is no shortage of thought experiments around how blockchain — and distributed ledger technology more broadly — will revolutionize the insurance industry. These include smart contracts, fraud detection, claims prevention, proof of insurance and product authentication. Insurers overseas have made significant progress with blockchain technology, including a consumer application for flight delay insurance and a commercial platform for marine insurance. But activity on the part of U.S. insurers is less apparent.

Conference calls provide a useful barometer for a company's interest in blockchain, as they indicate that executives are thinking about it. When startups try to introduce new technology, one of the common hurdles they cite is a lack of commitment from those with decision-making power at incumbent institutions.

When we published research in April on how U.S. financial services companies are using blockchain, we found roughly 40 transcripts since the start of 2015 from publicly traded U.S. banks that mentioned "blockchain," versus only three from insurance underwriters. Publicly traded banks greatly outnumber insurers in the U.S. But insurers also lagged broker/dealers and asset managers in terms of transcripts, and those sectors each have fewer publicly traded companies than insurance. For this piece, we expanded our transcript analysis to include global insurers, which offered a wealth of information. Many more European insurers discussed their projects than companies in other regions, despite there being about half as many publicly traded insurers in Europe as in the U.S. and Canada region.

One project that caught our attention in the European market was Axa's Fizzy. The flight insurance product uses smart contracts written to the Ethereum blockchain and automatically pays a claim if a passenger's flight is delayed more than two hours. Axa launched Fizzy in September 2017 and at the time offered coverage for only a few routes a day. As of mid-June 2018, Axa had expanded the app to 5% of worldwide routes. But merely the fact that it launched is noteworthy, as many projects from other companies, both in and outside the insurance realm, remain in proof-of-concept mode.

Ping is king

While European insurers collectively discussed blockchain on the most number of conference calls, Chinese insurer Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd. took the top spot in our ranking of individual insurers.

Ping An considers blockchain one of its five core technologies, as executives mentioned during an investor day in November 2017; the others are biometrics, big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. One of its main initiatives was the creation of a blockchain-as-a-service platform, which provides services to small and medium-sized enterprises that want access to the latest technology.

Come together

While they might not be as forthcoming about their internal projects, a number of U.S. insurers have discussed their membership in consortium initiatives. One of these is The Institutes RiskBlock Alliance, or RiskBlock for short, which works with underwriters and brokers to develop blockchain applications specifically for the insurance industry. Europe is also home to a consortium that has been generating buzz: Zurich-based B3i. Short for Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative, B3i began as an industry collaboration but in March announced that it was becoming an actual legal entity, incorporating itself as B3i Services AG.

The bottom line

While it is possible that U.S. insurers are more secretive about their blockchain plans than other industries, they are more likely taking a wait-and-see approach. The fact that insurers in other areas of the world are experimenting with the technology and even launching apps supports this assessment.

Right now seems like a make-or-break moment for distributed ledger technology, as projects across multiple industries are going from proof-of-concept to live implementations. Perhaps if those bear fruit it will compel U.S. insurers to further embrace the technology.

Learn more about Market Intelligence
Request Demo