CNA to transfer asbestos liabilities to Berkshire unit

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted July 15, 2010 at 7:54 a.m.

Commercial insurance writer CNA Financial Corp. said it has in place an agreement to transfer about $1.6 billion of net asbestos and pollution liabilities to Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s National Indemnity Co. unit.

Under the agreement, CNA will pay National Indemnity a reinsurance premium of $2 billion and transfer about $200 million worth of rights to collect billed third-party reinsurance receivables. The $1.6 billion transfer comes under a retroactive reinsurance agreement with an aggregate limit–also covering credit risk on existing third-party reinsurance related to the liabilities–of $4 billion.

National Indemnity will deposit the $2.2 billion in a collateral trust for CNA and assume responsibility for claims handling and collection from third-party reinsurers related to the asbestos and pollution claims.

For CNA, which expects to post an after-tax loss of about $375 million after the deal closes later this quarter, the agreement effectively eliminates “a significant source of uncertainty” from legacy liabilities, said Chairman and Chief Executive Thomas F. Motamed.

CNA is 90 percent owned by Loews Corp., which is a conglomerate owned by New York’s Tisch family that owns big stakes in several other businesses, including Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP. CNA, like many other insurers, has seen improved results in recent quarters as the economy has healed.

Shares of CNA closed Wednesday at $27.22 and were inactive premarket. The stock has risen 82 percent in the past year.

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