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Genworth sees higher home values buffering claims

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Australia’s leading provider of lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) expects mortgage delinquencies to gradually increase this year and for claims incurred to rise to more normal levels, though it says improved borrower equity from a jump in house prices should provide a “helpful buffer” for the insurer.

Genworth, which wrote 72,000 new LMI polices last year and has a 43% share of the market, says 2021 was an exceptional year for the core business and early 2022 has seen a continued subdued claims environment in which first-quarter delinquencies and paid claims remained low.

“When I started with Genworth just over two years ago, I was drawn to the great potential I saw in the business,“ CEO and MD Pauline Blight-Johnston said. "Just over two years later, Genworth’s impact and potential has surpassed my expectations.”

The insurer has previously forecast 2022 net earned premium of $315-375 million, after it jumped 19% last year to $371 million.

Net earned premium remained strong in the first quarter, though mortgage lending growth slowed after unprecedented re-financing last year as homebuyers chased low rates. That churn had added a $75.5 million windfall to Genworth’s 2021 premium revenue.

Chairman Ian MacDonald told shareholders last week Genworth approved 8134 hardship requests to assist borrowers who were experiencing difficulties in the past year and had more than 1.1 million policies with insurance in-force of $304.5 billion.

Genworth plans to reveal a new name later this year in a rebranding to “mark a new chapter” after NYSE-listed Genworth Financial Inc, which listed Genworth in 2014, sold its entire 52% stake in March.