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CAPITAL MARKETS

Catastrophe bonds: Mexico issues to insure against earthquakes

Earthquakes have exacted a heavy toll on Mexico

Mexico broke ground this year with a $160 million, three-year catastrophe bond to cover an earthquake disaster, the first developing country to do so. With the success of that issue, Mexico’s finance ministry is now considering issuing against hurricanes and intense rains that cause flooding. As Mexico recovers from the devastation brought by Hurricane John in September and scientists warn of ever-more severe weather because of global warming, the need to protect against such disasters is clearly urgent. According to José Antonio González Anaya, the finance ministry’s insurance chief, bonds issued by the hurricane-prone US state of Florida could serve as a model for Mexico. Those bonds generally pay more interest than corporate bonds with the same rating and need a category 5 hurricane directly hitting a city to trigger them. The finance ministry says that ideally Mexico would issue a cat bond against hurricanes before president Vicente Fox ends his term in December. Even if that goal is not met, president-elect Felipe Calderón is expected to follow a similar, pro-market economic policy and Mexico’s cat bond issuance is forecast to continue.

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