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Announcement:

Moody's affirms Symetra Financial (sr debt at Baa3); outlook to positive

05 Dec 2011

New York, December 05, 2011 -- Moody's Investors Service has affirmed the Baa3 senior debt rating for Symetra Financial Corporation (Symetra; NYSE: SYA) and the A3 long-term insurance financial strength (IFS) rating of Symetra's key life insurance operating subsidiary, Symetra Life Insurance Company (Symetra Life), and changed their rating outlook to positive from stable. Other affiliated ratings were also affirmed (see complete ratings list, below).

RATINGS RATIONALE

According to Moody's Assistant Vice President, Shachar Gonen, "The positive outlook on Symetra reflects the company's improving financial profile, highlighted by excellent capital adequacy (NAIC Risk Based Capital ratio exceeded 450% at September 30, 2011)--which is expected to remain robust under a stress scenario--and improving financial flexibility." Symetra has also strengthened its business profile by diversifying its growing fixed annuity distribution channel, and the company is also expanding its product portfolio, which should diversify the company's product risk profile over time.

The rating agency noted that following senior management changes in 2010, Symetra has embarked on a strategy to drive profitable growth in its current markets and leverage its distribution strengths and customer relationships with a variety of new product offerings, including individual and group life, fixed indexed-annuities, and potentially variable annuities (without living benefit guarantees). As the company faces pressure to achieve results, Gonen added, "Moody's expects the company to show measured growth in new product sales while maintaining disciplined pricing." If sales growth is achieved by compromising pricing discipline, there would be downward rating pressure.

Moody's said the A3 IFS rating reflects Symetra's consistent profitability, which has improved as asset losses have recovered to near-historical levels, and good financial flexibility. The rating is also supported by Symetra Life's relatively stable liability profile, as well as its growing bank-distributed fixed annuity business and broadening distribution network. However, given the interest-sensitive nature of Symetra's deferred annuity and structured settlement liabilities, the company will be pressured if the current low interest rate environment persists. Symetra is also challenged by its relatively modest position in the life insurance market.

Moody's said the following factors could result in an upgrade: return on capital (ROC) consistently above 6%; NAIC RBC ratio maintained above 375%; consolidated financial leverage at Symetra Financial below 30% and cash flow coverage of greater than 5x on a consistent basis; no more than 20% of bank distributed annuity sales with a single financial institution.

Conversely, the following factors could lead to a return of Symetra's outlook to stable: failure to maintain pricing discipline while growing sales; gross asset losses above $100 million (pre-tax) in 2012; consolidated financial leverage at Symetra Financial above 30% or cash flow coverage less than 5x.

The following ratings were affirmed and the outlook moved to positive from stable:

Symetra Financial Corporation: senior debt at Baa3; junior subordinated notes at Ba1 (hyb);

Symetra Life Insurance Company: long-term insurance financial strength at A3; short-term insurance financial strength at Prime-2.

Symetra Financial Corporation is a Bellevue-based, public company that sells insurance and related financial products. At September 30, 2011, it reported consolidated GAAP assets of approximately $28 billion and consolidated GAAP shareholders' equity of $3 billion. Symetra Life Insurance Company, its wholly-owned life insurance subsidiary, reported total statutory assets of approximately $24 billion and adjusted statutory capital and surplus of $1.8 billion at September 30, 2011.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Moody's Global Rating Methodology for Life Insurers published in May 2010. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

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

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

Although this credit rating has been issued in a non-EU country which has not been recognized as endorsable at this date, this credit rating is deemed "EU qualified by extension" and may still be used by financial institutions for regulatory purposes until 31 January 2012. ESMA may extend the use of credit ratings for regulatory purposes in the European Community for three additional months, until 30 April 2012, if ESMA decides that exceptional circumstances arise that may imply potential market disruption or financial instability. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody's office that has issued a particular Credit Rating is available on www.moodys.com.

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides relevant 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 relevant regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides relevant 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.

Moody's considers the quality of information available on the rated entity, obligation or credit satisfactory for the purposes of issuing a rating.

Moody's adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a rating is of sufficient quality and from sources Moody's considers to be reliable including, when appropriate, independent third-party sources. However, Moody's is not an auditor and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information received in the rating process.

Please see Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions on the Rating Process page on www.moodys.com for further information on the meaning of each rating category and the definition of default and recovery.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history. The date on which some ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's provides a date that it believes is the most reliable and accurate based on the information that is available to it. Please see the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

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.

Shachar Gonen
Asst Vice President - Analyst
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Robert Riegel
MD - Insurance
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's affirms Symetra Financial (sr debt at Baa3); outlook to positive
No Related Data.
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