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Rating Action:

Moody's affirms AXA's ratings (A2 senior debt) with a stable outlook

09 Sep 2016

London, 09 September 2016 -- Moody's Investors Service has today affirmed AXA's A2 senior unsecured debt rating and A3/A3(hyb) subordinated debt ratings, as well as the Aa3 insurance financial strength (IFSR) ratings of AXA's main operating subsidiaries. The rating outlook is stable.

A list of all the ratings affected by this rating action is available at the end of this press release.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The affirmation of AXA's ratings reflects the Group's very strong business profile and its resilient and relatively stable operating performance notwithstanding headwinds from the very low interest rate environment. AXA also maintains strong asset/liability management and prudent reserving practices. Less positively, AXA faces the challenges of protecting the investment margin within its life business, particularly in markets like Germany and Switzerland which are the most affected by the very low interest rate environment. Furthermore, Moody's views the Group's economic capitalisation as lower than some of its Aa-rated peers, and its level of goodwill and intangible assets remains high representing 73% of adjusted shareholders' equity (on Moody's basis) at YE15.

With regard to its business profile, Moody's expects AXA to maintain its very strong franchise which includes leading market positions in France, Switzerland, Belgium, the UK and Ireland. Furthermore, the Group is active in ten Asian countries and is a leading global health player. AXA's ratings also benefit from its very strong business and geographic diversification, with the diversification of underlying earnings in 2015 well balanced between non-life (39%), savings and asset management (36%), and protection & health (25%).

Such diversification, together with the Group's disciplined asset liability management, helps offset the Group's main product risk which is in its in-force traditional general account savings business. Several of AXA's life markets have relatively high guarantees, not least Germany where the spread between the average in-force average guarantee of 3.5% and the investment yield had reduced to zero at H1 16. Furthermore, the low interest rate environment poses challenges to the Group's legacy portfolio of US variable annuities ("VA") although in recent years AXA has lowered the risk profile of its VA business.

The stable outlook also reflects Moody's expectation that AXA's operating performance will remain resilient and relatively stable in the coming quarters. The Group reported a small year-on year increase in net income (+3%) and underlying earnings (+2%) to around EUR 5.6 billion and EUR 5.6 billion respectively, and earnings were relatively stable in H1 16. The Group's Return on Capital (Moody's definition) has steadily improved from 2013 to over 6% in 2015 and earnings' volatility has been extremely low. Going forward, the very low interest rate environment will be a meaningful headwind, but we expect AXA to counter this via (i) its diversified income streams, (ii) its continued focus on capital light life & savings products at the expense of its traditional general account products, (iii) on further improving the combined ratio which will also benefit from cost savings initiatives.

Moody's also expects the Group's capitalisation to remain good, notwithstanding the sensitivity of its solvency to financial market movements. Following the slight increase of the Group's Solvency II ratio to 205% as at YE15 (YE14: 201%), this ratio reduced to 197% as at H1 16 but remained comfortably within its target range of 170-230%. However, Moody's views the Group's economic capitalisation as lower than some of its Aa-rated peers, as the public ratio is significantly inflated by the use of equivalence for the Group's US business.

A recent area of improvement for AXA has been the reduction in its adjusted financial leverage which fell again to 26.9% in 2015 (YE14: 27.3%). 2014 was the first time in many years that AXA's adjusted financial leverage had been below 30% and going forward Moody's expects the Group's adjusted financial leverage to remain below this level. AXA's earnings coverage has also consistently improved -- 6.7x at YE15 (YE14: 6.2x) -- although the 5-year average ratio of 5.5x is below Moody's expectations for Aa companies.

RATINGS OF SUBSIDIARIES

The affirmation of the Aa3 IFSRs of AXA's main subsidiaries in France (AXA France Vie and AXA France IARD), Switzerland (AXA Versicherungen AG), the US (AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company), Germany (DBV-Deutsche Beamten-Versicherung AG, AXA Lebensversicherung AG, AXA Versicherung AG and AXA Krankenversicherung AG), Belgium (AXA Belgium) and the UK (AXA Insurance UK plc) mirrors the rating action on the holding's debt ratings. The ratings of these entities benefit from one or two notches of implicit support, reflecting their strong contribution to AXA's revenues and profits and their strategic relevance to the group.

Moody's has affirmed the A1 IFSR of MONY Life Insurance Company of America (MLOA), a US subsidiary, reflecting its standalone credit profile as well as one notch of implicit support due to the fact that MLOA sells all AXA new life insurance products in the US outside of New York.

Moody's has also affirmed the A1 IFSR of AXA Insurance Ltd, AXA's Irish subsidiary which benefits from implicit support from the AXA Group. Although relatively small, AXA Insurance Ltd is a leading and profitable P&C insurer in its market and fits well within the strategy of the AXA Group.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP/DOWN

Downward pressure would develop on AXA's ratings in case of: 1) a sustained rise in adjusted financial leverage beyond 30% and/or; 2) deterioration in profitability as evidenced by a Return on Capital (Moody's definition) consistently below 5% and fixed charge coverage consistently below 5x and/or; 3) Group Solvency II ratio falling below 170% and/or; 4) a deterioration in asset quality.

Upward pressure would develop in case of: 1) a sustainable reduction in adjusted financial leverage to nearer 20% and/or; 2) a sustainable improvement in the Group's capitalisation level and quality and/or; 3) improvements in profitability as evidenced by a Return on Capital consistently above 8% and fixed charge coverage consistently above 8x across the underwriting cycle.

Any downgrade/upgrade of AXA's ratings would place downward/upward pressure on those subsidiaries which receive support from AXA.

LIST OF RATINGS

The following ratings have been affirmed:

AXA -- senior unsecured debt rating at A2;

AXA -- subordinated debt rating at A3/A3(hyb);

AXA -- junior subordinated debt rating at A3(hyb)/Baa1(hyb);

AXA -- provisional senior unsecured MTN rating at (P)A2;

AXA -- provisional subordinated MTN rating at (P)A3;

AXA -- provisional junior subordinated MTN rating at (P)A3;

AXA -- commercial paper at P-1.

AXA France Vie -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA France IARD -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA Versicherungen AG -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

DBV-Deutsche Beamten-Versicherung AG -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA Lebensversicherung AG -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA Versicherung AG -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA Krankenversicherung AG -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA Belgium -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA Insurance UK plc -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating at Aa3;

MONY Life Insurance Company of America -- insurance financial strength rating at A1;

AXA Insurance Ltd -- insurance financial strength rating at A1.

AXA Financial, Inc. -- senior unsecured debt rating at A2.

AXA Financial, Inc. -- provisional senior unsecured shelf rating at (P)A2;

AXA Financial, Inc. -- provisional subordinated shelf rating at (P)A3;

AXA Financial, Inc. -- provisional junior subordinated shelf rating at (P)A3;

AXA Financial, Inc. -- backed commercial paper at P-1;

AXA Financial Capital Trust I -- backed preference shares shelf rating at (P)A3;

AXA Financial Capital Trust II -- backed preference shares shelf rating at (P)A3;

AXA Financial Capital Trust III -- backed preference shares shelf rating at (P)A3;

AXA Financial Capital Trust IV -- backed preference shares shelf rating at (P)A3.

Guardian Royal Exchange plc -- backed senior unsecured debt rating at A2.

Outlook Actions:

The outlook on all issuers is stable

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGIES

The principal methodologies used in rating AXA, AXA Belgium and AXA Versicherungen AG were Global Life Insurers published in April 2016 and Global Property and Casualty Insurers published in June 2016.

The principal methodology used in rating AXA Financial, Inc., AXA Financial Capital Trust I, AXA Financial Capital Trust II, AXA Financial Capital Trust III, AXA Financial Capital Trust IV, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, AXA Lebensversicherung AG, AXA France Vie, AXA Krankenversicherung AG and MONY Life Insurance Company of America was Global Life Insurers published in April 2016.

The principal methodology used in rating Guardian Royal Exchange plc, AXA Insurance Ltd, AXA Insurance UK plc, AXA Versicherung AG, DBV-Deutsche Beamten-Versicherung AG and AXA France IARD was Global Property and Casualty Insurers published in June 2016. Please see the Ratings Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of these methodologies.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Moody's considers a rated entity or its agent(s) to be participating when it maintains an overall relationship with Moody's. On this basis Guardian Royal Exchange plc or their agents are considered to be participating entities. These rated entities or their agents generally provide Moody's with information for their ratings process.

The person who approved AXA, AXA Versicherungen AG, AXA Belgium, AXA France Vie, AXA Krankenversicherung AG, AXA Lebensversicherung AG, Guardian Royal Exchange plc, AXA Insurance Ltd, AXA Insurance UK plc, AXA Versicherung AG, DBV-Deutsche Beamten-Versicherung AG and AXA France IARD credit ratings is Antonello Aquino, Associate Managing Director, Financial Institutions Group, Journalists: 44 20 7772 5456, Subscribers: 44 20 7772 5454.

The person who approved AXA Financial, Inc., AXA Financial Capital Trust I, AXA Financial Capital Trust II, AXA Financial Capital Trust III, AXA Financial Capital Trust IV, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company and MONY Life Insurance Company of America credit ratings is Marc Pinto, MD- Financial Institutions, Financial Institutions Group, Journalists: 212 553 0376, Subscribers: 212 553 1653.

The relevant office for each credit rating is identified in "Debt/deal box" on the Ratings tab in the Debt/Deal List section of each issuer/entity page of the Website.

The below contact information is provided for information purposes only. Please see the ratings tab of the issuer page at www.moodys.com, for each of the ratings covered, Moody's disclosures on the lead analyst and the Moody's legal entity that has issued the ratings.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Dominic Simpson
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Antonello Aquino
Associate Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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