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Rating Action:

Moody's affirms Nationwide ratings; outlook returns to stable

03 Aug 2010

Approximately $4.7 billion in consolidated debt outstanding

New York, August 03, 2010 -- 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 ratings of Nationwide Financial Services' ("NFS") senior unsecured debt were affirmed at Baa1. In the same action, Moody's changed the ratings outlook on NMIC and its various affiliates to stable from negative.

Commenting on the rating action, Moody's Senior Credit Officer Paul Bauer said, "The change in the Nationwide group's outlook to stable is primarily based on our opinion that the risk profile of the group's life affiliate NFS has improved in recent quarters, driven by a much stronger level of capitalization and a reduced risk of capital strain caused by investment losses and equity market-driven volatility." In addition, the analyst said that overall capital levels at NMIC and its property and casualty subsidiaries had also improved due largely to earnings and a recovery in investment valuations.

Life Insurance Group

Moody's said that the rating affirmation of NFS and its subsidiaries was based on NFS' established position in the annuity and pension markets, diversified distribution channels and strong brand recognition, as well as generally good asset quality and strong capitalization.

Commenting on the return to a stable outlook for NFS, the rating agency said it was based on moderating total investment losses at the company's key life insurance subsidiaries in 2010, as well as on their strong regulatory capital adequacy, as measured by the NAIC Risk-Based Capital (RBC) ratio. "NFS's growing portfolio of variable annuities adds earnings volatility to the group's results," said Senior Credit Officer, Laura Bazer. "However, with a year-end 2009 consolidated RBC ratio of 490% and year-to-date growth during 2010, regulatory capital should be ample to cushion these earnings swings, as well as continuing above-average asset losses. While losses from corporate and structured securities (i.e., RMBS and CMBS) are expected to moderate, commercial mortgage loans at NFS are expected to rise, given continuing deterioration in the real estate markets," the analyst added.

At NFS's current rating level, Moody's expects that the consolidated NAIC RBC ratio (as percentage of Company Action Level) for the life companies will remain higher than 325%, and that total investment losses during 2010 will remain between about $300 million and $500 million (pre-tax). In addition, NFS's return-on-capital is expected to be in the mid-single digits.

Property and Casualty Insurance Group

The change in the ratings outlook for NMIC and its property and casualty insurance affiliates largely reflects the reduced risk at NMIC's wholly-owned life insurance subsidiary NFS discussed above. According to Mr. Bauer, "Improvements in NFS' capital adequacy, earnings and investment portfolio have reduced the likelihood that the parent, NMIC, may be called on to support its life insurance affiliates through capital infusions."

In addition, the stand-alone capital level of NMIC (excluding the life insurance subsidiaries) has also improved over the last year helping replace a large portion of the $2.5 billion in cash that was used by the company to purchase the previously outstanding minority ownership of NFS in early 2009.

Moody's stated that its affirmation of the ratings of NMIC and its property and casualty affiliates reflects its status as one of the ten largest property-casualty insurers in the United States. The company has a significant market position in personal lines insurance, strong brand recognition and a sound balance sheet. These strengths are partially offset by longer-term challenges such as sales force productivity, potential distribution channel conflicts, a high (though improving) expense structure, exposure to asbestos and environmental (A&E) liabilities, and exposure to natural catastrophes.

The ratings of NMIC assume gross underwriting leverage of less than 3.5x, a consistent product risk profile, particularly in terms of exposure to natural catastrophes, and minimal (e.g. less than 10%) downside volatility in policyholders' surplus.

The ratings of both NFS and NMIC and their various operating affiliates assume consolidated financial leverage for the organization between 20% and 25% and earnings coverage in the mid single digits.

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

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company -- insurance financial strength rating 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, with the outlook changed to stable from negative:

Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. -- senior unsecured debt rating of Baa1 and junior subordinated debt rating of Baa2;

Nationwide Financial Services Capital Trust -- preferred stock rating of Baa2;

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

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

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

The following rating was affirmed with the outlook remaining stable:

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

The last rating action on NMIC and its property and casualty affiliates occurred on August 5, 2009, when Moody's assigned an A3 rating with negative outlook to $700 million in surplus notes maturing 2039, issued by NMIC. The last rating action on NFS and its life insurance affiliates occurred on January 5, 2010, when Moody's affirmed and withdrew the A1 insurance financial strength ratings (negative outlook) on Nationwide Life Insurance Company of America (NLICA) and Nationwide Life & Annuity Company of America (NLACA) -- two wholly owned subsidiaries of Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. that were merged into other companies.

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 2009, Nationwide Group reported statutory net premiums written of $15.2 billion, net income of $408 million, and year ending policyholders' surplus of $11.7 billion. Wholly-owned Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. reported total assets of approximately $103 billion and shareholders' equity of $4.8 billion as of December 31, 2009.

The principal methodology used in rating NMIC and its property and 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 Rating Methodologies sub-directory under the Research and Ratings tab. Other methodologies and factors that may have been considered in the process of rating this issuer can also be found in the Rating Methodologies directory sub-directory on Moody's website.

Moody's insurance financial strength ratings are opinions of the ability of insurance companies to punctually pay senior policyholder claims and obligations. For more information please visit Moody's 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
MD - Insurance
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's Investors Service
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
USA

Moody's affirms Nationwide ratings; outlook returns to stable
No Related Data.
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