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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS Aa3 RATING TO AMP'S US$4 BILLION DEBT SECURITIES PROGRAMME

22 Oct 1998
MOODY'S ASSIGNS Aa3 RATING TO AMP'S US$4 BILLION DEBT SECURITIES PROGRAMME Moody's Investors Service assigned a Aa3 rating to the US$4 billion Debt Securities Programme of AMP Group Holdings Limited ("AMPGH"), which is an intermediate holding company for the majority of AMP Limited group's subsidiaries. The Programme also allows Notes to be issued by AMP (UK) Finance Services plc ("AMPUKFS") and AMP Group Finance Services Limited ("AMPGFS"), guaranteed by AMPGH, which would be assigned a Aa3 rating.


The rating reflects AMPGH's major strengths which include its ownership of Australia's largest life insurance company, AMP Life Limited, rated Aa1 for insurance financial strength by Moody's. In addition, AMPGH owns the UK life insurer, Pearl Assurance plc, rated Aa2 for insurance financial strength by Moody's, as well as owning a major asset management operation which manages both the AMP Group's investment assets as well as third party funds. AMPGH's level of consolidated debt is significant but not excessive, with core borrowings of some GBP650 million at the 1997 year end, relating mainly to the acquisition of Pearl Assurance which took place in 1989.



Moody's said that it has a negative outlook on the rating since there is a negative outlook on the Aa1 insurance financial strength rating of AMP Life Limited, and because AMP Limited has announced that it intends to raise its level of debt in the future in order to make significant acquisitions. Moody's also said that it was closely monitoring the developments with the recently announced hostile offer by AMP Ltd for GIO Australia Holdings Ltd for AUD3 billion. The rating agency said that the successful consummation of an agreement between AMP and GIO could place additional pressure on the rating, including the possibility of a review for downgrade, in the event of negative implications, such as a significant increase in AMP's core group debt associated with the financing of the transaction. In addition, the acquisition of GIO (rated Baa1 senior debt, Prime-2 commercial paper) could heighten the risk profile of the combined entity depending on the strategy adopted in dealing with the various GIO businesses. However, AMP's offer is a hostile one, with the potential that additional offers for GIO from other companies could be forthcoming, the terms of AMP's offer could change, or GIO's shareholders may reject the offer; therefore, the consummation of the deal is currently uncertain.


Moody's said that the Aa2 rating on the œ100 million bond due 2001 issued by AMP (UK) plc in 1991 remains unchanged, and that it should be noted that this rating is higher than that for the US$4 billion debt securities programme because it benefits from a keepwell agreement from AMP Life Limited which does not apply to the debt securities programme. A negative outlook applies to this rating.


The Aa3 rating is largely based on the Aa1 insurance financial strength rating for AMP Life Limited which reflects its large book of regular premium participating business acquired over the many years of its leadership position in the Australian traditional life insurance market. This book of business can be expected to provide AMP Life with a stable and profitable earnings stream for several years. In addition, AMP Life has very effectively adapted to the radical changes in the Australian long term savings industry in the last few years, which is now mainly focused on superannuation products in place of traditional life insurance. AMP Life has achieved a leading market share in the rapidly growing and highly competitive superannuation market, which positions it well for the future. AMP Life also has a strong level of capitalisation and good asset quality.


Moody's has applied a negative outlook to AMP Life's Aa1 insurance financial strength rating because its surplus capital has been reduced compared with that of the former AMP Society, following the demutualisation of AMP Society, in which AUD5.1 billion of assets were transferred to the newly created group holding company, AMP Ltd. In addition, Moody's notes that AMP is still in the process of diversifying its distribution channels from its traditional large tied agent force to a more diversified multi-distribution capability. Until this is completed, AMP Life's expense ratio, although improving, is likely to remain somewhat higher than some of its competitors. Finally, Moody's sees the Australian life insurance market as highly competitive, following its transformation into a superannuation-focused market attracting new low-cost entrants.


AMPGH is headquartered in Sydney, Australia, and had pro-forma total assets of AUD95 billion and total equity attributable to shareholders of AUD7 billion at December 31, 1997.



No Related Data.
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