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Rating Action:

MOODY'S DOWNGRADES FRIENDS PROVIDENT RATINGS BY TWO NOTCHES: IFSR TO A2, SUBORDINATED DEBT TO Baa1. OUTLOOK IS STABLE.

04 Dec 2002
MOODY'S DOWNGRADES FRIENDS PROVIDENT RATINGS BY TWO NOTCHES: IFSR TO A2, SUBORDINATED DEBT TO Baa1. OUTLOOK IS STABLE.

London, 04 December 2002 -- Moody's Investors Service today downgraded by two notches to A2 from Aa3 the Insurance Financial Strength Rating (IFSR) of Friends Provident Life & Pensions Ltd. ("FPLP"), the 100% owned life assurance subsidiary of Friends Provident Plc ("FP"), and to Baa1 from A2 the subordinated debt rating of FP Finance Plc ("FPF"), another FP subsidiary. The outlook on both ratings is now stable. The rating actions conclude the review for possible downgrade for the FP group initiated on 11 November this year.

Moody's said that the downgrade is the result of equity market pressures on levels of reported statutory capitalisation and earnings. Whilst Moody's notes the flexibility of FP's liability management to mitigate the effect of these presssures, FPLP's capital position has shown declining trends recently, in line with the industry generally, such that statutory capitalisation is now at lower levels than before. Furthermore Moody's notes that FPLP continues to support its regulatory capital position through the use of implicit items (future profits) and a reinsurance arrangement which, as other elements of capital have declined, now form a greater proportion of the regulatory capital requirement. Moody's adds that certain additional assets not currently eligible for statutory solvency do exist within the group which could potentially improve the statutory solvency position, in addition to the shareholders embedded value. Whilst statutory operating profit based on the long-term investment return has improved, profitability after taking into account unrealised market related losses is under pressure.

Moody's believes that the prolonged depressed equity markets have thus impacted FP to an extent that it is now more consistent with an A2 IFSR rating for the Life Company. The loan of GBP 215 million at FPF is guaranteed on a subordinated basis by FPLP and, in accordance with normal practice, continues to be notched two levels below the IFSR. More positively, Moody's notes that FP's gearing is quite modest. In addition Moody's believes that FP remains relatively well placed for the new post-depolarisation environment with business spread across independent, tied and international channels, and has a significant core IT capability with the ability to deliver straight through processing.

The downgrades are within the parameters referred to in Moody's recent Special Comment on the UK Life Industry. Other UK Life companies are still under review and rating downgrades of one or two notches are to be expected.

Friends Provident Plc, based in Dorking, England, demutualised last year and had total assets of GBP 59 billion at the end of September 2002.

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

London
Duncan W. Rawson
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
44 20 7772 5454

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