Thursday, October 6, 2011

MAA slips into PN17 status

KUALA LUMPUR: How times have changed. MAA Holdings Bhd (MAAH), once the country's biggest locally-owned insurer, now falls under the PN17 category, leading to a drop in its share price yesterday amid active trade.

The category refers to financially troubled firms and its September 30 announcement spooked investors who drove the stock to its lowest close in more than two years.

MAAH fell into PN17 because it has sold its major business to deal with debt and not due to other reasons like a loan default or shrinking shareholders' funds.

The fall from grace of the company linked to the Negri Sembilan royalty came into the spotlight in 2006 when its insurance arm was saddled with RM500 million of bad debts.

MAA Assurance, which first granted commercial loans in August 1992, had commercial loans worth about RM779 million as at December 31 2006.

Out of this, about 69 per cent, or RM534.3 million, was in default as at December 31 2006. This involved some 45 companies.

A year later, MAAH said it wants to sell a stake in its jewel insurance arm, MAA Assurance Bhd.

In 2007, MAAH made a RM55.8 million loss after setting aside more money to cover potential bad loans.

It was also hit by a RM24.7 million loss from an interest swap to achieve interest savings for its RM200 million medium-term notes programme.

A new partner was desperately needed but price became a major issue.

Changing tack, MAAH offered its general insurance unit to Tan Sri Azman Hashim's AMMB Holdings Bhd but after protracted negotiations, the deal was called off.

It came under more pressure when regulators introduced the Risk Based Capital framework in 2009. This meant it had to look for more money to boost capital requirements.

MAAH then agreed to sell its entire stake in MAA Assurance to Zurich Financial Services Group for RM344 million.

In one swoop, MAAH was left without its main insurance arm and technically without a core business.

With only a unit trust and takaful business in its hands, the regulators classified MAAH as a Practice Note 17 company on September 30 2011.

By Rupinder Singh,

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