Independent building warranty provider Stamford Insurance says it has stepped in with a new scheme to protect clients of CBL Insurance and "prevent the situation spiralling out of control".
The High Court last month ordered CBL Insurance be placed into interim liquidation on an application by the Reserve Bank as the insurer's prudential supervisor.
The interim liquidators have urged those who are insured by the firm or are beneficiaries of its policies to get advice as to whether they needed to buy other cover or secure additional or replacement financial risk bonds.
Stamford said that within 48 hours of the announcement of the interim liquidation it had secured support from Lloyd's of London "to restore peace of mind to many homebuyers and builders caught up in the crisis".
Duncan Colebrook, director of Stamford, said: "The underwriters in London responded immediately to our request and are committed to providing New Zealand homebuyers with the finest building warranties."
The scheme would protect both buyers and homeowners:
• For buyers who have signed a contract and paid a deposit where work has yet to start, Stamford will cover the risk that they may lose their deposit if their builder becomes insolvent.
• If construction has already started, Stamford will guard against builder insolvency and provide 10 years' defects cover on completion.
• For homeowners who have taken possession of their homes within the past 12 months and who may have lost their protection against major defects arising with their home, Stamford will offer them a new 10-year policy.
"We had to move quickly to prevent the situation spiralling out of control with many homebuyers possibly in breach of their mortgage conditions and dependent on this insurance to be able to proceed with their purchase. Builders, too, were worried for their clients," Colebrook said.
Stamford said it would work closely with insurance services firm Builtin, a CBL agent in New Zealand which had been dealing directly with those most affected.
Keryl Rickard, director of Builtin, said: "We're pleased that Stamford was able to move so quickly to support us and our clients. It means that from today it is business as usual."
CBL Insurance is a subsidiary of NZX-listed CBL Corporation.
The first outward signs of something going wrong appeared in early February when the company went on a trading halt, announced it was having to strengthen the reserves for its French construction business by $100 million, and had made a $44m write-off, resulting in a likely after tax loss of between $75m to $85m.
It talked about a capital raising and said more details would follow. Two days later came revelations that the Reserve Bank — New Zealand's regulator for the insurance industry — had been reviewing the adequacy of its reserves for the French construction business and had imposed a direction as far back as July 2017 on its minimum solvency followed by a further direction in November to consult it on any non-business-as-usual transactions over $5m.
Shareholders were told this was the first time the company could talk about it because of strict confidentiality orders imposed by the Reserve Bank.
A day later, on February 8, the NZX suspended trading on the stock on concerns about whether shareholders had received full disclosure of what was going on at the firm even though CBL said it was not in breach of disclosure rules.
By mid-February, CBL announced it would exit its French construction insurance business.
A week later the Reserve Bank stepped in applying to the High Court at Auckland to place CBL Insurance, a subsidiary of the corporation, into interim liquidation — a move it says was triggered after the company paid $55m to overseas companies, breaching the central bank's orders.
The parent company then called in voluntary administrators to prevent other regulators from taking action.
In a joint statement the Financial Markets Authority and the NZX last week said they were concerned CBL may have been in breach of various obligations, including its continuous disclosure obligations.
"The FMA and NZX will be working very closely with the Reserve Bank to assess the information available to us. The FMA has also requested further information as appropriate from overseas regulators."
CBL Corp managing director Peter Harris has said there was a wider story to be told about how CBL got to where it is and where it might be heading.
"The facts will show some mistakes we have made, and the cause and effect of those, and just where we are and why, along with our plan for dealing with these issues."