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Rating Action:

MOODY'S RATES ST. PAUL REINSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED Aa2 FOR INSURANCE FINANCIAL STRENGTH

16 Dec 1998
MOODY'S RATES ST. PAUL REINSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED Aa2 FOR INSURANCE FINANCIAL STRENGTH Moody's Investors Service has assigned a Aa2 insurance financial strength rating to St. Paul Reinsurance Company Limited (St. Paul Reinsurance), the London-based lead company of The St. Paul Companies in Europe and an important participant in the London insurance companies market. The rating assignment reflects explicit support for St. Paul Reinsurance that is provided by the main operating company in the United States, its strategic importance to the parent company and its improved underwriting performance in recent years.

Moody's said that the rating reflects primarily the representation made by St. Paul Reinsurance that all its obligations and liabilities arising from past and future underwriting activities are guaranteed unconditionally by US-based St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company, the principal underwriting entity of The St. Paul Companies, Inc., which Moody's rates Aa2 for insurance financial strength. The guarantee can be cancelled by the guarantor with six months' notice, however, which would have a material effect on the credit rating of St. Paul Reinsurance but would have no effect in respect of business underwritten prior to the date of termination.

Although international insurance and reinsurance currently represent a minor proportion of the group's world-wide business, Moody's believes that St. Paul Reinsurance will continue to be strategically important to The St. Paul Companies, because of the parent's significant participation in the brokered reinsurance market; St. Paul Reinsurance's location in this oldest, and still important, insurance market and its proximity to other European markets; its accreditation as an Approved Trusteed Reinsurer in 35 US states; its local underwriting expertise; its involvement in the Lloyd's market and its high-profile securitisation transactions.

This strategic importance is bolstered by improving operating results. Unlike the early 1990s, when St. Paul Reinsurance reported operating losses, the company has reported core profits and attractive margins overall in recent years, with the portfolios of property and marine risks performing consistently better than the casualty lines portfolio. This has been the result of a combination of factors, including but not limited to reducing exposures to uneconomically-priced marine and non-marine property business and discontinuing London market excess marine business. There has also been a comparatively low frequency of catastrophe losses in this market.

These positive features supporting the company's rating are counterbalanced by systemic factors affecting most London market companies, such as the comparatively weaker franchise of a fragmented market that relies on brokers for its business flows; and by more company-specific considerations such as the size and economic importance of the operation to the group, and the riskier nature of the business assumed in the London market, as exemplified by the results of St. Paul Reinsurance's portfolio of casualty risks. Expansion by acquisition could also have rating implications. In recent years, St. Paul Reinsurance expanded its book organically and through the acquisition of the rights to renew some of the international business formerly written by CIGNA Reinsurance Company s.a.n.v. Given market pressures, additional transactions cannot be ruled out. Moody's will evaluate each transaction on its merits.

St. Paul Reinsurance Company Limited is based in London, England. In 1997, it wrote net premiums of œ170 million and at year-end reported shareholders' funds of œ176 million (approximately US$290 million). Based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, The St. Paul Companies is a leading underwriter of commercial and speciality lines coverages, primarily in the USA, and of reinsurance in the US, London, and, other international markets. As of 30 September, 1998, The St. Paul Companies Inc. reported year-to-date revenues of US$6.9 billion and a net loss of US$39 million, and shareholders' equity of US$6.6 billion. The St. Paul recorded a US$656 million pre-tax charge in the second quarter of 1998 in connection with its merger with USF&G. Earnings for the third quarter were also negatively impacted by a series of US weather-related "catastrophe" losses, and by deterioration in the core results of several of its primary property-liability underwriting business segments, consistent with industry-wide pricing pressures. Moody's added that it will continue to carefully monitor the group's underwriting performance and progress with respect to the integration of USF&G, but noted that The St. Paul's historically conservative approach to underwriting and to establishing its claim reserves, and its relatively modest appetite for financial leverage, remained significant positive credit considerations.


No Related Data.
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