Assured Guaranty disputes Moody's downgrade; to launch a new insurer

Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:02pm EST

Jan 18 (Reuters) - Assured Guaranty said it plans to launch a new municipal-only financial guaranty insurer that will not carry a Moody's rating, a day after the rating agency downgraded the bond insurer.

The company, however, did not disclose the size of the new insurer, which it intends to launch this year, or the capital that it plans to invest.

Moody's downgraded the Insurance Financial Strength (IFS) rating of the company and its subsidiaries on Thursday.

The credit rating agency placed Assured Guaranty and its units under review last March.

"We strongly disagree with Moody's assignment of an A2 rating to Assured Guaranty Municipal," Chief Executive Dominic Frederico said in a statement.

"Moody's ratings now appear to be determined by unsupported qualitative factors and assumptions about future product demand, future profitability and future stock price."

The bond insurer's board also authorized a $200 million share repurchase program.

Assured Guaranty shares, which fell more than 4 percent in early trading on the downgrade, closed up about 3 percent on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

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