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Rating Action:

Moody's affirms Nationwide ratings; outlook is negative

29 Jul 2009

Approximately $4.3 billion in debt outstanding

New York, July 29, 2009 -- Moody's Investors Service has affirmed the insurance financial strength ratings of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ("NMIC") and its property-casualty and life insurance affiliates at A1. The ratings on NMIC's surplus notes were affirmed at A3, and the senior unsecured debt of subsidiary Nationwide Financial Services ("NFS") was affirmed at Baa1. In the same action, Moody's changed the ratings outlook on NMIC and its property and casualty affiliates to negative from stable, while the outlook for NFS and its life insurance subsidiaries remains negative.

Moody's said that the negative outlook is largely based on continued pressures at the group's life insurance affiliate NFS, which is at risk of further losses under a stress scenario from its significant block of variable annuities with guarantees, and from its investment portfolio. The life companies have exposures to RMBS and CMBS holdings, hybrid preferred securities, and commercial mortgage loans, all of which face increasing losses in a recessionary environment.

The change in the ratings outlook for NMIC and its property and casualty insurance affiliates reflects the risk that they may be called on to support the group's life insurance affiliates, whose capital adequacy may come under pressure given the potential losses from investments and variable annuities. An additional concern is capitalization at NMIC, which has weakened over the course of the last year, due mainly due to the use of $2.5 billion in cash to buy out minority shareholders in NFS, but also exacerbated by investment losses and weather-related claims. The group's relatively weak recent profitability has prevented it from strengthening capitalization internally from retained earnings. According to Moody's Senior Credit Officer Paul Bauer, "Declines in capital have reduced the margin of error for the company, thus increasing the chance of a downgrade if earnings and capitalization do not improve over the medium term."

Moody's stated that the ratings of NMIC and its property and casualty affiliates reflect its status as one of the ten largest property-casualty insurers in the United States. The company has significant market position in personal auto and homeowners insurance and a sound balance sheet that has benefited from the sale of certain businesses and the pruning of coastal insurance risks in recent years. These strengths are partially offset by longer-term challenges such sale force productivity, a high expense structure, exposure to natural catastrophes, and legacy asbestos and environmental liabilities.

The ratings of NFS and its life insurance subsidiaries are based on the company's established position in the annuity and pension markets, diversified distribution channels and strong brand recognition, as well as generally good capitalization. Offsetting these strengths are the company's focus on highly competitive, lower-margin asset accumulation products, exposing it to equity market volatility and spread compression, particularly in its variable annuity business. In addition, the significant exposure to housing-related securities (including those with Alt-A and subprime content), preferred securities of banks, and commercial real estate -- relative to consolidated statutory surplus -- also offsets credit strengths.

The following factors could result in a downgrade of the group: (1) adjusted financial leverage (consolidated GAAP for NMIC and NFS) above 30% for an extended period; (2) gross underwriting leverage at the group's property and casualty affiliates above 3.5x; (3) consolidated NAIC RBC (as percentage of Company Action Level) for the life companies of less than 300%; or 4) investment losses of greater than $1 billion pre-tax in 2009 for the group.

Conversely, the following factors could return the outlook to stable from negative: (1) sustained adjusted financial leverage comfortably under 30%, and EBIT coverage of fixed charges above 8 times over the cycle (consolidated GAAP); (2) investment losses for NFS of less than $500 million pre-tax in 2009; and/or (3) consolidated NAIC RBC for the life companies of at least 325% on a sustainable basis.

The following ratings of NMIC and its property and casualty affiliates have been affirmed, with the outlook changed to negative from stable:

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength of A1 and surplus note rating of A3;

Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide General Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide Assurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Scottsdale Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Farmland Mutual Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Crestbrook Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating of A1.

The following ratings of NFS and its life affiliates were affirmed, and continue to have a negative outlook:

Nationwide Financial Services, Inc.: senior unsecured debt at Baa1; junior subordinated debt at Baa2;

Nationwide Financial Services Capital Trust preferred stock rating at Baa2;

Nationwide Life Insurance Company: insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide Life Insurance Company of America: insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide Life & Annuity Insurance Company: insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide Life & Annuity Company of America: insurance financial strength rating of A1;

Nationwide Life Global Funding I: senior secured debt rating of A1.

The following rating was affirmed with a stable outlook:

Nationwide Life Insurance Company: short-term rating for commercial paper at Prime-1.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Nationwide Mutual is one of the largest property and casualty insurance groups in the U.S. The organization also maintains significant life insurance and annuity business through its ownership of Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. For 2008, Nationwide Group reported statutory net premiums written of $15.6 billion, net income of $685, and year ending policyholders' surplus of $13.2 billion. Wholly-owned life company Nationwide Financial Services, Inc., reported total assets of approximately $94 billion and shareholders equity of $3.1 billion as of December 31, 2008.

The last rating action on NFS and its life insurance affiliates occurred on March 10, 2009 when Moody's downgraded the NFS debt ratings (senior debt to Baa1 from A3) and the insurance financial strength ratings to A1 from Aa3 with a negative outlook.

The last rating action on NMIC and its property and casualty affiliates occurred on December 19, 2008, when Moody's downgraded the NMIC surplus notes rating to A3 from A2, and the insurance financial strength ratings to A1 from Aa3, with a stable outlook.

The principal methodology used in rating NMIC and its property/casualty affiliates was "Moody's Global Rating Methodology for Property and Casualty Insurers." The principal methodology used in rating NFS and its affiliates was "Moody's Global Rating Methodology for Life Insurers." Both methodologies can be found at www.moodys.com in the Credit Policy & Methodologies directory, in the Ratings Methodologies subdirectory. Other methodologies and factors that may have been considered in the process of rating this issuer can also be found in the Credit Policy & Methodologies directory.

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

New York
Paul Bauer
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

Moody's affirms Nationwide ratings; outlook is negative
No Related Data.
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