Several major municipal bond insurers said yesterday they have exposure to bonds issued by Orange County, Calif., and other municipalities involved in the county's troubled investment fund.
But the insurers moved quickly to reassure investors that the situation is under control, issuing a series of public statements and press releases.
Orange County's bankruptcy announcement, made on Tuesday evening, came on the heels of $1.5 billion of unrealized losses in its investment fund.
The fund included money from various municipalities and government agencies, which only added to the tension among market participants.
The insurers, which have guaranteed many of the county's bonds as well as several of the pool's participants, fielded telephone calls yesterday from nervous investors concerned about the stability of their bond holdings.
The insurers spread the word yesterday that the risk of default from these issuers is minimal despite the county's bankruptcy filing. In addition, insurers said they will have little trouble meeting their obligations if called upon.
One insurer, Financial Security Assurance, issued a press release specifying its exposure to county debt and its willingness to make good on its guarantees.
According to the release, the company insured a $20.6 million certificates of participation issue sold by the county. The release said the county owes $2.3 million debt service in March 1995.
The company said the securities are collateralized by computers, communications, and transportation equipment. The county has a reserve fund of $2.5 million available for debt service payments. The reserve fund is not part of the county's troubled investment pool.
"Regardless of the final outcome, however, all holders of FSA-insured Orange County obligations can rest assured that they will receive timely payment of principal and interest when due if there are missed payments," said FSA president Robert P. Cocharan in a statement. "The situation further reinforces the value of bond insurance."
In addition, FSA said the company is exposed to three California-based issuers that are part of the county's investment pool. The company insured a total of $25 million in outstanding debt comprised of transactions sold by the city of La Habra, the Orange County Airport, and the Midway Sanitary District.
AMBAC Indemnity Corp. also reassured investors through a press release that it intends to make good on interest and principal payments on Orange County securities in the event of a default.
"We continue to believe that Orange County has the capacity to meet its financial obligations and believe it reasonable to assume do the state of California will be supportive in resolving these issues," said AMBAC's chairman, Phillip B. Lassiter, in a prepared statement.
AMBAC has insured approximately $253.7 million of revenue bonds for Orange County since 1982, according to Securities Data Co.
New York-based Municipal Bond Investors Assurance Inc., which has insured five Orange County revenue bonds totaling $132.7 million since 1982, said it doesn't expect to experience any losses on its insured issues.
According to the statement, MBIA executives are identifying, the investment pool participants that have issued debt insured by the company.
In late New York trading, AMBAC's stock was unchanged at 32 1/4, while MBIA's stock was up 1 1/2, closing at 50 1/2. FSA's stock was also unchanged, closing it 19 7/8.