Why Genworth's Shares Got Crushed

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of mortgage insurer Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW  ) were getting hammered by investors today, falling as much as 23% in intraday trading after the company announced that it's delaying the IPO of its Australian mortgage insurance business.

So what: The bad news is really two-fold here. First, there's the simple fact that Genworth is delaying the IPO. The company had planned to sell 40% of its Australian arm in the offering, which would bring in new capital. In the press release today, Genworth emphasized that the IPO is part of its "business portfolio management strategies" and that the company's liquidity is not dependent on the offering. That may be true, but during a time of housing-market stress, it doesn't hurt for a mortgage insurer to have extra buffer.

The second aspect of the bad news is the reason behind the IPO delay, which is poor performance in the Australian business. Genworth said that in the first quarter it expects "elevated loss experience in Australia." The higher insurance loss is expected to lead to a "modest first quarter loss" for the Australian arm as a whole.

Now what: With a dour housing market and tough headwinds for life insurers -- Genworth's other main business line -- the expectation of smooth sailing and plenty of good news isn't the reason to be a buyer of this stock. On the other hand, with the company currently valued at less than a quarter of its book value, some investors -- including yours truly -- may find value in betting that while the current outlook isn't rosy for Genworth, Mr. Market has overdone the markdown on the company's shares.

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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Genworth, but does not have a financial interest in any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or Facebook. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.


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