Fitch is warning Insurers Face $23 Billion Loss on Commercial Property.

U.S. life insurers, a group led by MetLife Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc., may lose as much as $22.6 billion on investments in commercial real estate through 2011, Fitch Ratings said.

Losses on investments in apartment buildings, offices, shopping malls and other commercial real estate will begin to increase in the next 6 months to a year as rents decline and vacancies increase, said Fitch Senior Director Andrew Davidson. Life insurer losses on commercial real estate have been “virtually nil” so far, he said.

“It will be more of a 2010 and 2011 issue,” Davidson said in an interview today. “It will put some stress on the capital positions as they realize the losses.”

Life insurers held more than $450 billion in commercial loans and mortgage-backed securities at the end of 2008, Fitch said in a related report. The delinquency rate on U.S. CMBS rose to 4.01 percent at the end of October, almost seven times what it was a year ago, Moody’s Investors Service said yesterday.

MetLife has recorded three straight quarterly losses and Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. has lost money since June 2008 as investments that include those backed by commercial and residential mortgages dropped in value. New York-based MetLife and Prudential have said commercial mortgage defaults will climb in the next year.

The credit crisis has driven $138 billion worth of U.S. commercial properties into default, foreclosure or debt restructuring, according to New York-based Real Capital Analytics Inc. Commercial real estate prices have plunged almost 41 percent since October 2007, the Moody’s/REAL Commercial Property Price Indices show.

With that plunge in commercial real estate prices, there will be staggering losses percentage-wise on any foreclosures. Perhaps the insurance companies can survive the hit, but small undercapitalized, over-leveraged banks will not be able to do so.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Click Here To Scroll Thru My Recent Post List