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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS INSURANCE FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS TO THREE OF GERMANY'S LARGEST LIFE INSURERS

09 Sep 1998
MOODY'S ASSIGNS INSURANCE FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS TO THREE OF GERMANY'S LARGEST LIFE INSURERS London, September 9, 1998 -- Moody's Investors Service assigned its first insurance financial strength ratings in the German life insurance market with ratings of Aaa (exceptional financial strength) for Allianz Lebensversicherung AG, Aa2 (middle range of excellent financial strength) for Hamburg-Mannheimer Versicherungs AG, and Aa3 (lower end of excellent financial strength) for R&V Lebensversicherung AG. Moody's intends to assign insurance financial strength ratings to more German life insurers over the next few months.

The assignment of these ratings follows Moody's research into the German life insurance market, published in its "German Life Insurance Industry Outlook" in June 1998. Moody's believes that the German life insurance market entered a new era with the deregulation of pricing that occurred after the implementation of the Third EC Life Directive in July 1994. This allowed competition to develop between life insurers which is slowly beginning to change products and distribution in the life insurance market.

Nevertheless, so far, there has been little change to the structure of the market that has existed for the last few decades. Distribution is still largely conducted through tied company sales-forces, although brokers and multi-company agents are becoming more important. Products still largely consist of the traditional Kapitalversicherung (endowment policy) structure with a mixture of guaranteed bonus and non-guaranteed annual and terminal bonus, although there is a sharply increasing volume of both single premium policies and deferred and immediate annuities. Unit-linked policies (Fondsgebundenen Lebensversicherung) remain a small part of the market, although they are expected to show increasing growth. Asset quality and solvency strength vary from company to company, although Moody's noted that the recent disclosure of hidden reserves by the German life industry has revealed a strong level of market value capitalisation and solvency in many companies (for an analysis of solvency strength in Germany, France and the UK see Moody's recent Special Comment entitled "One of Life's Great Mysteries: What Does the European Life Insurance Solvency Ratio Mean ?"). Asset quality is also strong in many companies. Going forward, competition is likely to increase based on product offerings, distributional effectiveness, expense structure and technology, and investment performance, in addition to premium rates and bonuses, and divide the market more clearly than ever before into losers and winners.

Allianz's Aaa insurance financial strength rating reflects its considerable strengths as the dominant market leader with 14% of the market, its exceptionally high level of capitalisation on a market value basis, and its high quality operational capabilities, as evidenced by its low expense ratio, its high level of persistency and its diversified multi-distribution capability. Asset quality is also very strong. Moody's noted that Allianz is currently paying a reasonably high level of bonus which may require to be funded from capital gains on equity and other investments. Allianz has not been particularly innovative in the German life market, although it has little reason to be so in the currently slowly changing market conditions, the rating agency said.

Hamburg-Mannheimer Versicherungs AG's Aa2 insurance financial strength rating reflects its very strong market position as Germany's second largest life insurer, its exceptionally high level of capitalisation on a market value basis, its strong brand identity, and its very good asset quality. However, Moody's also noted that Hamburg-Mannheimer has some operational weaknesses such as a reasonably high level of expenses, a somewhat poor persistency ratio, and a slightly declining market share. Part of the cause of these weaknesses lies with Hamburg-Mannheimer's dependence on its own Strukturvertrieb (producing agents) as an important distribution channel, since the Strukturvertrieb tend to generate business with a higher lapse ratio than that generated by the rest of its sales-force. Moody's added that Hamburg-Mannheimer is attempting to better diversify and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its distribution. Hamburg-Mannheimer is a subsidiary of ERGO, an insurance group which is itself majority owned by Munich Re, a leading reinsurance group.

R&V Lebensversicherung AG's Aa3 insurance financial strength rating reflects its position as Germany's leading bank-owned life insurer, with the major benefit of having most of the German co-operative banking sector's branch network available for the distribution of its products. Its successful use of this distribution network has helped it to achieve a low expense ratio, good persistency and a growing market share. R&V also has a solid level of capitalisation on a market value basis. However, Moody's noted that R&V's dependence upon the co-operative banking sector's branch network for product distribution makes it vulnerable to potential rivals accessing this powerful distribution network. Nevertheless, Moody's recognises R&V's long association with the co-operative banking sector, which should help to protect against such a threat. Moody's notes that R&V's level of hidden reserves relative to its investment assets is lower than some of its main competitors, mainly reflecting R&V's recent rapid growth in business and in investment assets. The largest shareholder (50% ownership) of R&V's parent company's, R&V Versicherung AG, is DG Bank which is currently rated A2 / Prime-1 for deposits by Moody's.

Allianz Lebensversicherungs AG is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. It had total assets of DM132.9 billion and surplus assets (shareholders' equity, the free part of the RfB plus hidden reserves) of DM35 billion at December 31, 1997.

Hamburg-Mannheimer Versicherungs AG is headquartered in Hamburg, Germany. It had total assets of DM51 billion and surplus assets (shareholders' equity, the free part of the RfB plus hidden reserves) of DM13.8 billion at December 31, 1997.

R&V Lebensversicherung AG is headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany. It had total assets of DM34.8 billion and surplus assets (shareholders' equity, the free part of the RfB plus hidden reserves) of DM5.5 billion at December 31, 1997.



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