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Announcement:

Moody's affirms A2 Coface's IFSRs; stable outlook

20 Sep 2011

London, 20 September 2011 -- Moody's Investors Service has today affirmed the A2 long-term insurance financial strength ratings of Coface SA and of its German subsidiary, Coface Kreditversicherung AG, with a stable outlook. Moody's also affirmed the P-1 short-term insurance financial strength ratings of both companies.

The affirmation of the ratings reflect the recovery of the Coface Group's capital position to pre-crisis levels in the last two years, mainly thanks to capital support received from its shareholder, Natixis (D+ BFSR / Aa3 senior debt rating), and a return to profitability. The stable outlook reflects that despite potential pressures on pricing, the actions taken by the Group to significantly increase prices and improve the quality of its risk exposure since 2009 should limit the level of potential future losses if the economy deteriorates further in the short to medium term.

Moody's added that the A2 insurance financial strength ratings benefit from the Group's strong position as the third largest credit insurance group in the world and from a very good geographic diversification. The ratings also factor in Coface's risk monitoring tools and the short-term duration of its liabilities which enable the Group to actively manage its risk exposure and adapt its pricing and risk appetite policies to a change in the macro-economic environment in a relatively short timeframe.

Moody's mentioned that Coface reported a strong recovery in underwriting results since the second half of 2009, reflecting strong price increases combined with a reduction in risk exposure. The group's results continued to improve in the first half of 2011 with the net loss ratio decreasing to 53% (Moody's calculations, versus 56% in the first six months of 2010 and 98% for the full year 2009) driven by, inter-alia, a continued low level of claims (although modestly increasing in 2011), good growth in premiums and higher reserve releases. Whilst Moody's believes current underwriting results are not sustainable over the medium term in light of the difficult macroeconomic environment and increasing competition, the rating agency expects that the underwriting policy will remain adequate in the short to medium term to face a potential increase in claims. In particular, Moody's believes that the operating losses which would result from a similar crisis as the one experienced in 2008 and 2009 would be at a lower level today than at that time, thanks to the company's pricing and portfolio management actions.

However, Moody's believes that Coface results and credit insurers' results in general, will be pressurised by lower investment results. Moody's notes that Coface's new strategy to reduce the scope of its services activities, which could result in higher operational margins, may partly offset these negative effects. More negatively, the reduced weight of ancillary services will reduce the level of diversification in revenues, although Moody's notes that the diversification of earnings will be less significantly impacted, given the focus on the most profitable operations, notably factoring in Germany and Poland.

Moody's also notes that shareholders' equity has been replenished to above pre-crisis levels (from EUR1.2 billion at year-end 2007 to EUR1.5 billion as of 30 June 2011), thanks to improvement in results together with the capital injections from its current shareholder, Natixis, which more than offset the losses incurred in 2009. Moody's added that, more importantly, the economic capitalisation has also improved: whilst exposure has been significantly growing (up 17% since 2009), the quality of the exposure has meaningfully improved with the risk weighted exposure (as calculated by Coface) down by 13% as of 30 June 2011 compared to 2008 levels. In addition, the slight increase in reinsurance protection can limit the impact of potentially higher claims should the economy deteriorate further.

Commenting on what could change the rating down going forward, Moody's mentioned a material and sustained deterioration of earnings with 5 year average loss ratios higher than 95% through the cycle or a significant deterioration of the Group's capitalisation levels with net total exposure as a proportion of shareholder's equity or net underwriting leverage ratio rising above 270x and 160% respectively. Commenting on what could change the rating up going forward, Moody's mentioned substantial improvements in capitalisation with net total exposure as a proportion of shareholders' equity and net underwriting leverage consistently below 200x and 115% respectively, together with a reduction of goodwill and intangibles, or an improvement in underwriting profitability through the cycle.

The last rating action on these issuers was on September 8, 2009, when Moody's downgraded the long-term insurance financial strength ratings of Coface SA and Coface Kreditversicherung AG to A2 from Aa3.

The following ratings were affirmed with a stable outlook:

Coface SA -- insurance financial strength at A2;

Coface Kreditversicherung AG -- insurance financial strength at A2.

The following ratings were affirmed:

Coface SA -- short-term insurance financial strength at P-1;

Coface Kreditversicherung AG -- short-term insurance financial strength at P-1.

Based in Paris, France, Coface SA is the third largest credit insurance group in the world. The Group reported gross premium written of EUR1,252 million and shareholders' equity (including minority interests) of EUR1,396 million as of year-end 2010.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Moody's Rating Methodology for Global Trade Credit Insurers published in July 2011. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

Benjamin Serra
Asst Vice President - Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's France SAS
96 Boulevard Haussmann
Paris 75008
France
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Simon Harris
MD - Financial Institutions
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
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JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's affirms A2 Coface's IFSRs; stable outlook
No Related Data.
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