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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS (P)Baa2 RATING TO FORTHCOMING GBP250M PERPETUAL SUBORDINATED CAPITAL SECURITY ISSUE BY FRIENDS PROVIDENT PLC; STABLE OUTLOOK

03 Nov 2003
MOODY'S ASSIGNS (P)Baa2 RATING TO FORTHCOMING GBP250M PERPETUAL SUBORDINATED CAPITAL SECURITY ISSUE BY FRIENDS PROVIDENT PLC; STABLE OUTLOOK

London, 03 November 2003 -- Moody's today assigned a prospective (P) Baa2 rating to the forthcoming GBP250 million perpetual guaranteed subordinated capital security to be issued by Friends Provident plc ("FP"). Ratings on the Friends Provident Group (A2 insurance financial strength at Friends Provident Life and Pensions ("FPLP") and see list below) have been affirmed, and stable outlooks apply to all Group ratings. The final rating of the instrument is subject to receipt and review of final bond documentation.

The proposed new security, to be guaranteed by FPLP, marks the first issue in the UK under the new FSA guidelines for Innovative Tier 1 Capital, as outlined in consultation paper CP 195. Proceeds from the holding company will be downstreamed in a similar format to the operating company FPLP, with the expectation that the downstreamed instrument will form part of the Tier 1 capital resources for FPLP in the new regulatory framework. The instrument itself will follow the standard features as set out in CP 195, such as perpetual status with optional redemption, deferrable coupons with stock settlement, limited coupon step-up and junior claim in liquidation which, along with certain other features, create an instrument with, in Moody's view, moderate hybrid equity features. In a liquidation scenario, holders of the instrument would, via the guarantee, hold a preferred equity claim against the guarantor FPLP, and Moody's proposed Baa2 rating therefore reflects Moody's approach for rating preferred stock, along with the existing A2 insurance financial strength and Baa1 perpetual subordinated debt ratings for FPLP.

Commenting on the ratings of FPLP and the Friends Provident Group, Moody's said that the affirmation and maintenance of the stable outlook reflected a number of features. Firstly, the Group's capital position, although still to an extent reliant on certain elements of somewhat weaker quality capital, has shown some stability and improvement through 2003, as stock markets have stabilised. Moody's stable outlook also reflects Moody's expectation that the proposed issue will progressively replace certain elements of weaker capital such as financial reinsurance. Consequently, fixed charge cover at FP, including the costs of financial reinsurance should, in the medium-term, show no material increase. Operationally, statutory earnings have also shown some improvement, as business has continued to perform and as external market movements have relented. In addition, new business growth continues to be strong, with Q3 2003 APE up by 14% compared with 2002. Moody's added, however, that leverage at the Group has shown a significant increase since demutualisation, following the recent GBP284m convertible bond issue and the proposed GBP250m issue. Further material debt issuance, or failure to replace certain weaker capital elements with the proposed issue, could therefore lead to rating pressure over time.

Friends Provident plc, headquartered in Dorking, Surrey, had total assets of GBP30.8 billion as at end 2002.

The following new rating was assigned with a stable outlook

Friends Provident plc (P)Baa2 rating for proposed guaranteed perpetual subordinated security (guaranteed on a subordinated basis by Friends Provident Life & Pensions Ltd)

The following ratings were affirmed with a stable outlook

Friends Provident Life & Pensions Ltd A2 insurance financial strength

Friends Provident plc Baa2 senior convertible bond

Friends Provident Finance plc Baa1 guaranteed perpetual subordinated debt (guaranteed by Friends Provident Life and Pensions Ltd)

London
Mark Hewlett
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
Simon Harris
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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