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IFC Supports Regional Expansion of Leading Insurer in Trinidad and Tobago with $50 Million Investment


In Washington, D.C.
Adriana Gomez

Phone + 1 (202) 458-5204

E-mail:
agomez@ifc.org


Port of Spain / Washington, D.C., September 8, 2006 – The International Finance Corporation has provided a $50 million subordinated loan to Guardian Holdings Ltd., one of the leading insurance groups in Trinidad and Tobago, to support its business expansion into Central American markets.  Guardian provides life insurance as well as property and casualty insurance.

The long tenor of the innovative quasi-equity investment will cover the cash needs that a developing insurance business generates. The financing will also strengthen Guardian’s balance sheet and help diversify its sources of funding as it pursues further growth and expansion.  The instrument is structured to qualify as solvency capital under global insurance industry best practice and is expected to enhance Guardian’s standing with regional industry regulators.


“This investment fits IFC’s strategy to help enhance the Caribbean’s international competitiveness by supporting further regional integration and modernization,” said Kirk Ifill, IFC’s Manager in Trinidad and Tobago.  ”IFC is supporting top-tier companies with an extensive regional presence, such as Guardian, that are promoting financial sector consolidation by expanding beyond the Caribbean into other regions such as Latin America,” he added.


Serge Devieux, IFC’s Manager Financial Markets Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Globalization and deregulation pressures have pushed large multinational insurers out of fragmented markets such as the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Guardian has pursued successfully the diversification and scale necessary to serve the region’s insurance needs. IFC sees the investment as the initial phase of a long-term relationship with Guardian.”


Guardian has been successful in stimulating business growth through proactive sales and distribution, even as further penetration of the regional insurance market has been constrained by a general lack of insurance products and poor social acceptance and affordability.  Guardian has also played a valuable role in helping protect regional wealth accumulation against the threat of natural disasters.


Guardian traces its origins to 1847 as the Trinidad Branch of Standard Life Assurance Company of Edinburgh, Scotland.  As of June 30, 2006, it had consolidated total assets of TT$18 billion and a net worth of TT$3.2 billion.  Guardian’s flagship Trinidad and Tobago subsidiaries are rated “Excellent” by A.M. Best, which ranks them in the top quartile of global peers in terms of financial strength.  

Guardian has consolidated its market leadership in Trinidad and Tobago, largely through product innovation, and has expanded into 17 Caribbean countries and territories. It has mitigated earnings volatility, which inevitably arises from providing affordable coverage in a region prone to natural disasters, by diversifying its property and casualty insurance revenues to include niche businesses in the United Kingdom and by instituting a robust reinsurance program. Guardian not only met its obligations to policyholders after Hurricane Ivan and other storms struck with unusual intensity in 2004, but it also maintained surplus capacity within its excess of loss reinsurance treaties that year.

“The funds are being used as part of strategic management of our balance sheet and to provide the equity that we will need when we find a suitable acquisition. We were delighted to close this transaction with such a professional and diligent funding agency, and our success demonstrates the strength that these very demanding investors place on our group,” said Rory O’Brien, Guardian’s Group Chief Executive Officer.

In the Caribbean, IFC is the leader in providing long-term investment products to help companies grow and compete in the global economy.  In the last five years, IFC's Caribbean offices (in the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago) have committed and mobilized over $1 billion in the region, including $787 million in investments for IFC’s own account.  The major sectors for the IFC commitments are infrastructure ($238 million), financial markets ($28 million), general manufacturing ($146 million), and information and communications ($129 million).


The International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, is the largest multilateral provider of financing for private enterprise in developing countries. IFC finances private sector investments, mobilizes capital in international financial markets, facilitates trade, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to businesses and governments. From its founding in 1956 through FY 06, IFC has committed more than $56 billion of its own funds for private sector investments in the developing world and mobilized an additional $25 billion in syndications for 3,531 companies in 140 developing countries. With the support of funding from donors, it has also provided more than $1 billion in technical assistance and advisory services.  For more information, visit
www.ifc.org.