Creditex and Markit Announce Successful Launch of Portfolio Compression Platform to Reduce Operational Risk in CDS Market

9 September 2008

Markit and Creditex today announced the launch of an industry-wide portfolio compression platform for the credit derivative market with the first live runs completed successfully for single name credit default swaps (CDS) in the North American and European markets.

The first North American live portfolio compression run, which took place on 27 August with the participation of 14 credit derivative dealers, was conducted for CDS contracts referencing several widely traded North American telecommunications companies. It achieved a 56% gross notional reduction of compressible [1] contracts and a 49% gross notional reduction across all participating counterparties.

The first European live portfolio compression run was held on 4 September with the participation of 15 credit derivative dealers. The service was run on CDS contracts referencing several widely traded European telecommunications companies, and achieved a 53% gross notional reduction of compressible contracts and a 46% gross notional reduction across all participating counterparties.

Markit and Creditex were selected by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) to provide infrastructure to support commitments made by major market participants to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York relating to improved operational efficiency and risk reduction.

Michael Heaney, Head of US Credit Trading at Morgan Stanley, said: "The results from the inaugural portfolio compression runs in the US and Europe are reflective of the significant efforts market participants are making to improve credit derivative market infrastructure and strengthen the resiliency of the financial system. We welcome the initiative by Markit and Creditex."

Brian Archer, Global Head of Credit Trading at Citi, said: "This is a significant achievement for the credit derivative market and a core component of the broad efforts being undertaken by major market participants to reduce operational risks and costs."

Philip Olesen, Managing Director of Credit Trading at UBS Investment Bank, said: "We are pleased with the progress of this initiative. The new risk-neutral compression algorithm is a critical improvement which eliminates the need for involvement by front-office traders, thereby increasing the frequency of compression runs and dealer participation rates."

The new portfolio compression methodology designed by Markit and Creditex is unique in that it reduces operational risk while leaving market risk profiles unchanged. This is achieved by terminating existing trades and replacing them with a smaller number of new replacement trades that carry the same risk profile and cash flows as the initial portfolio but have less capital exposure.

The portfolio compression process will be run on a regular basis to compress the most actively traded single name CDS contracts systematically across all major sectors. This will reduce the total gross notional outstanding of CDS contracts in the $62 trillion market to a significantly smaller net amount.

“We are pleased to have successfully launched our first portfolio compression runs in North America and Europe with the participation of the largest dealers in the CDS market. As we roll out this initiative across sectors globally, we will help the industry reduce risk and improve capital efficiency in the credit derivative markets,” said Kevin Gould, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Data Products and Analytics at Markit.

“This marks a major milestone in addressing operational issues highlighted by industry participants and regulators in recent months,” said Sunil Hirani, Creditex Chairman and CEO. “We are pleased to be working collaboratively with the dealer community to help improve operational efficiency and market scalability.”

The portfolio compression initiative is the second major industry effort on which Markit and Creditex have collaborated with ISDA and the major dealers to provide critical market infrastructure. The two companies are official co-administrators of ISDA cash settlement auctions which allow for efficient and orderly settlement of credit derivative contracts following a corporate default. The cash settlement auction mechanism was launched in 2005 and has since been relied upon in connection with nine major corporate defaults, most recently that of Quebecor World Inc.

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