Protecting Buyers and Sellers

M&As Fuel Reps and Warranties Coverage

Representations and warranties policies evolved into an efficient and effective capital solution.
By: | March 24, 2016 • 4 min read

Demand for representations and warranties coverage is on the rise for a number of reasons: increased M&A activity, a continued seller-friendly market, and the increased acceptance of the insurance product by deal makers, including law firms and investment bankers.

Kirk Sanderson, senior vice president, transactional risk, Equity Risk Partners

Kirk Sanderson, senior vice president, transactional risk, Equity Risk Partners

When the product became available about 10 years ago, buyers primarily purchased R&W as supplemental indemnity coverage when they were unable to get sellers to provide what they considered to be adequate indemnification protection under the transaction agreement, said Kirk Sanderson, senior vice president, transactional risk at Equity Risk Partners in New York City.

Sanderson’s firm was recently acquired by HUB International Ltd.

But in today’s market, sellers are essentially mandating that buyers take a reps and warranties policy to remain competitive in an auction scenario while providing very limited indemnification and zero escrow to buyers, Sanderson said.

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“Private equity firms and their outside counsel have really pushed the envelope over the past three to four years on developing the R&W insurance policy into a highly efficient and economically favorable capital solution,” he said.

Renee Szalkowski, senior vice president and transaction liability practice leader at Lockton in New York City, agreed. Sellers in prospective M&A deals now have more leverage to demand that buyers take out R&W policies to suit their own purposes, she said.

“They are dictating terms, including providing little or no indemnity in deals where they don’t have to set aside a large percentage in escrow for 12 or 18 months,” Szalkowski said.

Renee Szalkowski, senior vice president and transaction liability practice leader, Lockton

Renee Szalkowski, senior vice president and transaction liability practice leader, Lockton

Moreover, there is greater acceptance of the product because pricing — at 3 percent to 4 percent of limits purchased — is more reasonable, and the underwriting process more streamlined, she said.

The manuscripted polices are now underwritten by ex-M&A attorneys and are more insured-friendly, based on “actual knowledge” definitions, with limited subrogation against sellers and an increased appetite for certain types of damages, she said.

The “actual knowledge” exclusion in older vintage policies was much more expansive, said Matthew Heinz, managing director at Aon in New York City, and a 2016 Power Broker® in the Private Equity category.

He said the current exclusion is much narrower and makes it harder for the carrier to prove that the insured had actual knowledge of a breach at binding and to prove that the exclusion should apply.

In general, Heinz said, reps and warranties coverage terms have gotten a lot better, and are closer to the traditional indemnity provided by sellers in transactions.

Some exclusions, such as those limiting the breadth of recoverable loss for consequential damages or diminution in value, are frequently removed, providing the buyer with coverage terms that more closely approximate the types of loss the buyer would seek to recover from the seller if there is a breach.

An example would be the availability of consequential damages in connection with a seller’s breach of a regulatory compliance representation.

“If a target company was not compliant with some regulation and must pay a fine and shut down a portion of its operation as a result, the buyer would seek to recover not just the immediate financial impact of the breach (i.e., the fine), but also any consequential damages resulting from the shut-down, including lost profits,” Heinz said.

“Today’s policies allow for this coverage,” he said.

Using R&W Strategically

Matthew Heinz, managing director, Aon

Matthew Heinz, managing director, Aon

Reps and warranties policies are also more strategic now, as opposed to being driven by concern over heightened risk, Heinz said.

“Clients are strategically incorporating policies into the front end of deals, rather than when an issue comes up,” he said. “Sellers have been able to exit deals more cleanly by pushing buyers to obtain insurance coverage.”

Without insurance, sellers might have to indemnify the buyer up to 10 percent of the deal size, and potentially leave an escrow in place up to that amount, Heinz said. But now the seller may only need to put 1 percent or less in escrow, with the remainder of risk allocated to the insurance market in the form of a buy-side reps and warranties insurance policy.

Premiums have also come down from a range of 4 percent to 6 percent pre-2008, to the 3 percent to 4 percent range in the current market, he said.

Szalkowski and her team expect reps and warranty insurance will continue to be in high demand over the next year as the M&A landscape remains competitive.

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“Sellers are retaining post-closing equity positions more frequently and selling management is staying involved,” she said.

“This will result in buyers continuing to use reps and warranties policies to protect these relationships post-closing.”

However, clients should not expect prices to fall further in the near future just because “quite a few” carriers have entered the R&W insurance market, Szalkowski said.

“Notwithstanding increased supply and given increased demand, the fact that insurers that have been around for a while are paying claims means that overall pricing is holding steady,” she said.

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Alternative Energy

A Shift in the Wind

As warranties run out on wind turbines, underwriters gain insight into their long-term costs.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 6 min read

Wind energy is all grown up. It is no longer an alternative, but in some wholesale markets has set the incremental cost of generation.

As the industry has grown, turbine towers have as well. And as the older ones roll out of their warranty periods, there are more claims.

This is a bit of a pinch in a soft market, but it gives underwriters new insight into performance over time — insight not available while manufacturers were repairing or replacing components.

Charles Long, area SVP, renewable energy, Arthur J. Gallagher

“There is a lot of capacity in the wind market,” said Charles Long, area senior vice president for renewable energy at broker Arthur J. Gallagher.

“The segment is still very soft. What we are not seeing is any major change in forms from the major underwriters. They still have 280-page forms. The specialty underwriters have a 48-page form. The larger carriers need to get away from a standard form with multiple endorsements and move to a form designed for wind, or solar, or storage. It is starting to become apparent to the clients that the firms have not kept up with construction or operations,” at renewable energy facilities, he said.

Third-party liability also remains competitive, Long noted.

“The traditional markets are doing liability very well. There are opportunities for us to market to multiple carriers. There is a lot of generation out there, but the bulk of the writing is by a handful of insurers.”

Broadly the market is “still softish,” said Jatin Sharma, head of business development for specialty underwriter G-Cube.

“There has been an increase in some distressed areas, but there has also been some regional firming. Our focus is very much on the technical underwriting. We are also emphasizing standardization, clean contracts. That extends to business interruption, marine transit, and other covers.”

The Blade Problem

“Gear-box maintenance has been a significant issue for a long time, and now with bigger and bigger blades, leading-edge erosion has become a big topic,” said Sharma. “Others include cracking and lightning and even catastrophic blade loss.”

Long, at Gallagher, noted that operationally, gear boxes have been getting significantly better. “Now it is blades that have become a concern,” he said. “Problems include cracking, fraying, splitting.

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“In response, operators are using more sophisticated inspection techniques, including flying drones. Those reduce the amount of climbing necessary, reducing risk to personnel as well.”

Underwriters certainly like that, and it is a huge cost saver to the owners, however, “we are not yet seeing that credited in the underwriting,” said Long.

He added that insurance is playing an important role in the development of renewable energy beyond the traditional property, casualty, and liability coverages.

“Most projects operate at lower capacity than anticipated. But they can purchase coverage for when the wind won’t blow or the sun won’t shine. Weather risk coverage can be done in multiple ways, or there can be an actual put, up to a fixed portion of capacity, plus or minus 20 percent, like a collar; a straight over/under.”

As useful as those financial instruments are, the first priority is to get power into the grid. And for that, Long anticipates “aggressive forward moves around storage. Spikes into the system are not good. Grid storage is not just a way of providing power when the wind is not blowing; it also acts as a shock absorber for times when the wind blows too hard. There are ebbs and flows in wind and solar so we really need that surge capacity.”

Long noted that there are some companies that are storage only.

“That is really what the utilities are seeking. The storage company becomes, in effect, just another generator. It has its own [power purchase agreement] and its own interconnect.”

“Most projects operate at lower capacity than anticipated. But they can purchase coverage for when the wind won’t blow or the sun won’t shine.”  —Charles Long, area senior vice president for renewable energy, Arthur J. Gallagher

Another trend is co-location, with wind and solar, as well as grid-storage or auxiliary generation, on the same site.

“Investors like it because it boosts internal rates of return on the equity side,” said Sharma. “But while it increases revenue, it also increases exposure. … You may have a $400 million wind farm, plus a $150 million solar array on the same substation.”

In the beginning, wind turbines did not generate much power, explained Rob Battenfield, senior vice president and head of downstream at JLT Specialty USA.

“As turbines developed, they got higher and higher, with bigger blades. They became more economically viable. There are still subsidies, and at present those subsidies drive the investment decisions.”

For example, some non-tax paying utilities are not eligible for the tax credits, so they don’t invest in new wind power. But once smaller companies or private investors have made use of the credits, the big utilities are likely to provide a ready secondary market for the builders to recoup their capital.

That structure also affects insurance. More PPAs mandate grid storage for intermittent generators such as wind and solar. State of the art for such storage is lithium-ion batteries, which have been prone to fires if damaged or if they malfunction.

“Grid storage is getting larger,” said Battenfield. “If you have variable generation you need to balance that. Most underwriters insure generation and storage together. Project leaders may need to have that because of non-recourse debt financing. On the other side, insurers may be syndicating the battery risk, but to the insured it is all together.”

“Grid storage is getting larger. If you have variable generation you need to balance that.” — Rob Battenfield, senior vice president, head of downstream, JLT Specialty USA

There has also been a mechanical and maintenance evolution along the way. “The early-generation short turbines were throwing gears all the time,” said Battenfield.

But now, he said, with fewer manufacturers in play, “the blades, gears, nacelles, and generators are much more mechanically sound and much more standardized. Carriers are more willing to write that risk.”

There is also more operational and maintenance data now as warranties roll off. Battenfield suggested that the door started to open on that data three or four years ago, but it won’t stay open forever.

“When the equipment was under warranty, it would just be repaired or replaced by the manufacturer,” he said.

“Now there’s more equipment out of warranty, there are more claims. However, if the big utilities start to aggregate wind farms, claims are likely to drop again. That is because the utilities have large retentions, often about $5 million. Claims and premiums are likely to go down for wind equipment.”

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Repair costs are also dropping, said Battenfield.

“An out-of-warranty blade set replacement can cost $300,000. But if it is repairable by a third party, it could cost as little as $30,000 to have a specialist in fiberglass do it in a few days.”

As that approach becomes more prevalent, business interruption (BI) coverage comes to the fore. Battenfield stressed that it is important for owners to understand their PPA obligations, as well as BI triggers and waiting periods.

“The BI challenge can be bigger than the property loss,” said Battenfield. “It is important that coverage dovetails into the operator’s contractual obligations.” &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]