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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS PROSPECTIVE (P) A2 RATINGS TO AVIVA PLC'S FORTHCOMING SUBORDINATED DEBT ISSUES; RATING OUTLOOK ON THE GROUP'S DEBT AND INSURANCE FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS REVISED TO NEGATIVE

10 Sep 2003
MOODY'S ASSIGNS PROSPECTIVE (P) A2 RATINGS TO AVIVA PLC'S FORTHCOMING SUBORDINATED DEBT ISSUES; RATING OUTLOOK ON THE GROUP'S DEBT AND INSURANCE FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS REVISED TO NEGATIVE

The Prime-1 rating on Aviva plc and Aviva France commercial paper programmes continues to have a stable outlook.

London, 10 September 2003 -- Moody's Investors Service has today assigned prospective (P)A2 ratings to the forthcoming GBP 1.2 billion perpetual and dated subordinated debt issues by Aviva plc (Aviva) announced earlier today. At the same time, Moody's has revised from stable to negative its rating outlook on Aviva's Aa3 senior and A2 subordinated debt ratings as well as on the Aa2 insurance financial strength rating (IFSR) of the group's main UK general insurance and life insurance operations.

According to Moody's, the change in rating outlook reflects a minor deterioration in Aviva's credit risk profile, as the proposed increased debt leverage will inherently place some added pressure on the group's cash flows. Although the increased leverage is primarily affecting the holding company's credit metrics, Moody's believes that it will also exert pressure on the group's operating units to upstream dividends to the parent company so as to service the increased debt burden, especially if future operating profitability is weaker than expected. However, the group's structure and underlying profitability provide significant flexibility to meet higher debt servicing obligations.

Following the proposed new debt issuance, Aviva's total external senior and subordinated debts will increase to around GBP4.8 billion, an amount which appears manageable given Aviva's solid earnings base, and is also commensurate with the group's sheer size, superior diversification and shareholders' equity (GBP10.4 billion at June-end 2003).

Furthermore, Moody's points to Aviva's intention to use the proceeds from the new debt issue to further improve the solvency of its main operations, which will also be beneficial to the group's financial flexibility. Moody's also underlines the economic benefit derived from opportunistically issuing long-term financing at a time when market conditions appear favourable, and noted that these new issues -- as well as the subordinated debt issued by Aviva in 2001 -- have a very long duration with long non-call periods, and therefore constitute core components of the group's long-term financial structure. In addition, Moody's notes that the high proportion of deeply subordinated securities supporting the capital deployed by the group in its various business lines has some incremental benefit in the assessment of Aviva's economic solvency.

Finally, Moody's says that it will be monitoring the development of the group's capitalisation, financial leverage and the coverage of its debt service over the next 12 to 18 months. While the credit strength of Aviva's main operations appears very strong today, as reflected in their Aa2 IFSR, a deterioration in the group's key credit metrics as a result of its increased debt leverage could potentially prompt a rating review. However, Moody's indicates that, in such an event, it would expect a rating downgrade, if warranted, to be limited to a one-notch adjustment, barring unforeseen circumstances.

As regards Aviva's forthcoming dated and perpetual subordinated debt issues, Moody's says the (P)A2 rating assigned reflects the group's sound credit profile, the level of subordination of these securities and the fact that they are essentially similar to other subordinated debts issued by Aviva plc in 2001.

The following prospective ratings were assigned with a negative outlook:

Aviva plc -- dated subordinated debt at A2, perpetual subordinated debt at A2.

Other ratings affected by the outlook change are:

Aviva plc -- senior debt guaranteed by CGU International Insurance plc at Aa3, junior subordinated debt at A2;

Norwich Union Life & Pensions Ltd -- insurance financial strength at Aa2;

Norwich Union Linked Life Assurance Ltd -- insurance financial strength at Aa2;

CGNU Life Assurance Ltd -- insurance financial strength at Aa2;

Commercial Union Life Assurance Company Ltd -- insurance financial strength at Aa2;

CGU Insurance plc -- insurance financial strength at Aa2;

CGU International Insurance plc -- insurance financial strength at Aa2;

Norwich Union Insurance Ltd -- insurance financial strength at Aa2.

The following ratings are unaffected:

Aviva plc -- commercial paper at Prime-1;

Aviva France -- commercial paper at Prime-1.

Aviva plc, headquartered in London, United Kingdom, had total assets of GBP202 billion, as at the end of June 2003.

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

Paris
Jean-Luc Lepreux
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's France S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 33 1 53 43 93 78 SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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