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Rating Action:

Moody's upgrades the holding company debt ratings of Aspen and XL Group following a change in methodology

30 May 2018

New York, May 30, 2018 -- Moody's Investors Service has today upgraded by one notch the debt and preferred stock ratings of XL Group Ltd (XL Group) subsidiary XLIT Ltd. and Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited (Aspen).

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

RATINGS RATIONALE

This rating action follows yesterday's publication of a new cross sector methodology for assigning instrument ratings for insurers (http://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1093824). In this methodology, Moody's has modified its guidance for rating certain insurance holding company instruments, and specifically now applies narrower notching for certain insurance groups domiciled in locations with enhanced regulatory supervision at a group-wide level.

With respect to Bermudian insurers, Moody's considers that the Bermuda Monetary Authority's (BMA) enhanced commercial insurance regime, which is applicable to Bermuda's groups and commercial (re)insurers, is one of the regulatory regimes which provides enhanced group supervision. In March 2016, Bermuda was officially granted Solvency II third-country equivalency. As a result, the EU considers Bermuda's insurance regulation standards for commercial insurers to be equivalent to their own. Moody's also considers Solvency II to provide enhanced group supervision.

The rating actions on XL Group and Aspen reflect their domicile in Bermuda and the fact that most of their operations are supervised under the BMA's enhanced commercial insurance regime, Solvency II or equivalent regulatory regimes, as detailed below.

XL Group Ltd

XL Group Ltd is the ultimate holding company of the XL Group of companies. It is domiciled in Bermuda and subject to group supervision under Bermuda's Solvency II equivalent regulatory regime. At year-end 2017, approximately 80% of XL Group's capital was held by operating subsidiaries domiciled in Bermuda and EU countries.

XL Group's ratings reflect the strong market positions of the group's P&C insurance and reinsurance units which operate under the "XL Catlin" brand name, as well as its diversified earnings streams by geography and line of business. The ratings also reflect the group's strong capitalization and scale and its sound holding company liquidity. These strengths are tempered by the intrinsic volatility of XL Group's reinsurance businesses and certain insurance lines, moderate levels of profitability in recent years, exposure to natural and man-made catastrophes, increased adjusted financial leverage following substantial 2017 catastrophe losses and its moderate coverage of interest and preference and common share dividends.

In March 2018, XL Group entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by AXA SA (AXA -- A2 negative) in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $15.3 billion. The transaction is expected to close during the second half of 2018, subject to XL Group shareholder approval, various regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. AXA is domiciled in France and subject to group supervision under the Solvency II regime.

XLIT Ltd is the debt and preferred stock issuing company within XL Group. The majority of the senior and subordinated debt issued by XLIT Ltd is backed by XL Group Ltd.

Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited

Aspen is the ultimate holding company of the Aspen group of companies, including Aspen Insurance UK Limited (A2 negative) and Aspen Bermuda Limited (A2 negative). It is domiciled in Bermuda and subject to group supervision under Bermuda's Solvency II equivalent regulatory regime.

Aspen's ratings reflects the Group's good business diversification and reserve adequacy, proven access to debt markets, and the Group's conservative investment portfolio. These strengths are partially offset by pressure on Aspen's profitability, relatively high natural catastrophe exposures and total leverage positions, along with the inherent volatility and cyclicality in many of its lines of business and a difficult trading environment. In addition, Moody's believes that Aspen's more modest scale, relative to other mid-tier (re)insurers, will place pressure on its market position over time, particularly in the light of continued consolidation amongst reinsurance and specialty insurers.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATINGS UP/ DOWN

XL Group Ltd.

On 6 March 2018, XL Group's ratings were placed on review for possible upgrade following the company's announcement that it had agreed to be acquired by AXA.

The following factors could result in an upgrade of XL Group's ratings: 1) successful completion of the firm's acquisition by AXA; 2) evidence of strong implicit support from AXA; 3) a reduction in the firm's catastrophe risk appetite; and 4) retention of key senior management and underwriting personnel following the closing of the transaction. A termination of the planned transaction, with no material change to XL Group's current financial profile, would most likely result in a confirmation of the current ratings with a stable outlook.

Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited

Given the negative outlook, there is limited upward pressure on Aspen's rating at present; however, Moody's stated that the following factors would lead it to stabilise the outlook for Aspen: (i) increased capitalisation, or a clear path to increasing equity capital such that gross underwriting leverage returns to the historic range of 2.5x to 2.7x, and gross natural catastrophe exposure relative to equity returns to a more moderate level; and (ii) improved performance of Aspen's primary insurance book relative to peers and historical expectations (sub-100 combined ratio).

Conversely, the following factors could lead to a downgrade: (i) further erosion of shareholders' equity due to underwriting losses or return of capital to shareholders; (ii) underperformance of the primary insurance book as demonstrated by a combined ratio above 100% through the first-half of 2018 and going forward; (iii) indications of weakening in market position at key renewal periods during 2018 including weaker renewal pricing than peers or significantly diminished volumes; (iv) financial leverage remaining above 25% (excluding Silverton Re debt) and earnings coverage below 4x on a four-year average basis; and (v) indications of the group favouring shareholders over policyholders and creditors, including a lack of commitment to rebuilding the capital base.

Upgrades:

..Issuer: XLIT Ltd.

....Pref. Stock Preferred Stock, Upgraded to Baa3(hyb) from Ba1(hyb); Placed Under Review for further Upgrade

....Pref. Stock Non-cumulative Preferred Stock, Upgraded to Baa3(hyb) from Ba1(hyb); Placed Under Review for further Upgrade

....Subordinate Regular Bond/Debenture, Upgraded to Baa2(hyb) from Baa3(hyb); Placed Under Review for further Upgrade

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Upgraded to Baa1 from Baa2; Placed Under Review for further Upgrade

Upgrades:

..Issuer: Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited

....Preference Stock Preference Stock, Upgraded to Baa3(hyb) from Ba1(hyb)

....Pref. Stock Non-cumulative Preferred Stock, Upgraded to Baa3(hyb) from Ba1(hyb)

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Upgraded to Baa1 from Baa2

Outlook Actions:

..Issuer: Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited

....Outlook, Remains Negative

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Reinsurers published in May 2018. Please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

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.

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

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 rating analyst and the Moody's legal entity that has issued the ratings.

The person who approved XLIT Ltd credit ratings is Sarah Hibler, Associate Managing Director, Financial Institutions Group, 1 212 553 0376, 1 212 553 1653. The person who approved Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited credit ratings is Antonello Aquino, Associate Managing Director, Financial Institutions Group, 44 20 7772 5456, 44 20 7772 5454.

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.

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.

James Eck
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Sarah Hibler
Associate Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

No Related Data.
© 2019 Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Moody’s Analytics, Inc. and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, “MOODY’S”). All rights reserved.

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