NU Online News Service, June 26, 8:59 p.m. – U.S. life insurers may have invested about $5 billion, or 0.3% of their bond portfolios, in bonds issued by WorldCom Inc., Clinton, Miss., according to published reports citing estimates from Moody’s Investors Service, New York.

WorldCom has a total of $30 billion in outstanding debt. Debt rating agencies have suggested that the company’s recent financial and accounting problems could lead to defaults.

Financial services companies that have already announced their WorldCom exposure include Citigroup Inc., New York; Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa; Sun Life Financial Services of Canada Inc., Toronto; and the AXA Group, Paris.

  • Citigroup: $375 million in exposure, including $250 million in exposure at its life and annuity companies.
  • Principal: $61 million in exposure.
  • Sun Life: $45 million in exposure.
  • AXA: $39 million in exposure.

WorldCom announced Tuesday that the telecommunications company’s new executives believe departed executives overstated earnings by $3.8 billion over the past five quarters.

Moody’s noted earlier this month that investors have been having more problems than it expected this year with low-rated corporate bonds.

The worldwide default rate on low-rated bonds was 10.3% in May, unchanged from the default rate for the previous two months.

Moody’s analysts have been predicting that the default rate will go down to 8.1% by the end of the year, Moody’s says.

Fifteen bond issuers around the world defaulted on $15.5 billion in low-rated bonds in May, and 23 issuers defaulted on $19.5 billion in low-rated bonds in April, Moody’s says.