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Rating Action:

MOODY'S RATES AXIS CAPITAL HOLDINGS' PREFERRED SHARES Baa3; ASSIGNS SHELF RATINGS; OUTLOOK IS STABLE

16 Nov 2005
MOODY'S RATES AXIS CAPITAL HOLDINGS' PREFERRED SHARES Baa3; ASSIGNS SHELF RATINGS; OUTLOOK IS STABLE

New York, November 16, 2005 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned a Baa3 rating to the $200 million Series B Preferred shares to be issued by AXIS Capital Holdings Limited (NYSE: AXS). The net proceeds from the offering are expected to be used for general corporate purposes. Additionally, Moody's has assigned provisional ratings (senior debt at (P)Baa1) to the company's $1.5 billion multi-issuer universal shelf registration. The outlook for the ratings is stable.

According to Moody's, AXIS Capital's ratings reflect the firm's established business platform, its good spread of risk in international insurance and reinsurance (primarily through subsidiaries based in Bermuda, the United States and Ireland), its strong core earnings performance and internal capital generation to date, as well as its still moderate prospective financial leverage. Other strengths include its efficient operations, integrated systems infrastructure, and the company's high quality and liquid investment portfolio.

The rating agency added that these core strengths are tempered by the company's underwriting focus in highly cyclical specialty insurance and reinsurance sectors, and by the inherent underwriting volatility in many of these specialty lines, which include catastrophe-exposed property and aviation risks and casualty-based exposures (e.g. directors' and officers' liability, excess casualty, marine and other specialty classes of business). Casualty lines, by their nature, have significant pricing uncertainty, given the latency between the time of policy issuance and claim reporting and settlement, as well as uncertainties regarding emerging claims and coverage issues.

According to Moody's the two-notch spread between the holding company's Baa1 senior unsecured rating and AXIS Specialty Limited's A2 insurance financial strength rating constitutes standard notching for insurers that are both based in, and have substantial capital funds in, Bermuda. The regulatory environment in Bermuda has relatively modest restrictions on the transfer of dividends from operating companies to holding companies, as compared with most major on-shore domiciles (e.g. the USA). Furthermore, the rating agency noted that the A2 ratings on AXIS Reinsurance Company and AXIS Re Limited reflect their high degree of structural support from, and risk-sharing with, AXIS Specialty Limited through quota share and excess-of-loss reinsurance agreements.

Moody's expectations at the current rating level include that AXIS Capital will continue to maintain hybrid basket-adjusted debt at less than or equal to 20% of total capitalization, premium growth in the group's core businesses will remain generally in-line with its industry peers, underwriting leverage will remain relatively modest (e.g. gross written premiums not greater than 1.2x shareholders' equity) and annual property/catastrophe losses will not cause a decline in shareholders' equity in excess of 10%.

Moody's noted that the company's substantial gross and net catastrophe losses from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are a concern and reflect the company's relatively high volatility profile. Moody's noted that AXIS Capital's prospective underwriting risk appetite and controls will be key analytic considerations. The company's recapitalization efforts are viewed positively, and prospective leverage and coverage measures remain strong at the current rating level.

The following ratings were affirmed with a stable outlook:

AXIS Capital Holdings Limited - senior unsecured debt at Baa1; preferred stock at Baa3;

AXIS Specialty Limited-- insurance financial strength at A2;

AXIS Reinsurance Company-- insurance financial strength at A2;

AXIS Re Limited -- insurance financial strength at A2.

The following ratings have been assigned:

AXIS Capital Holdings Limited -- preferred stock rating of Baa3; shelf registration for prospective senior unsecured debt at (P)Baa1; shelf registration for prospective subordinated debt at (P)Baa2; shelf registration for prospective preferred stock at (P)Baa3;

AXIS Capital Trusts I, II, III -- shelf registration for prospective capital securities at (P)Baa2.

AXIS Capital Holdings Limited, based in Bermuda, is engaged through its subsidiaries in underwriting insurance and reinsurance on a worldwide basis. For the first nine months of 2005, AXIS Capital reported year-to-date gross written premiums of $2.8 billion and a net loss of $143 million. As of September 30, 2005, shareholders' equity was $2.9 billion.

Moody's insurance financial strength ratings are opinions of the ability of insurance companies to repay punctually senior policyholder claims and obligations. For more information, visit our website at www.moodys.com/insurance.

New York
Alan Murray
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

New York
Robert Riegel
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

No Related Data.
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