Fitch Ratings has downgraded Winterthur Swiss Insurance Company’s Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) rating to ‘A+’ from ‘AA’ and Long-term rating to ‘A’ from ‘AA-‘. The IFS rating for Winterthur Life, a wholly owned subsidiary of Winterthur Swiss Insurance Company, has also been downgraded to ‘A+’ from ‘AA’. Following the downgrades, the Outlook for each of these ratings is now Stable.
At the same time, Fitch has affirmed the ratings of Winterthur’s shareholder Credit Suisse Group (CSG) at Long-term ‘AA-‘ and Short-term ‘F1+’ and with Negative Outlook. The rating action reflects Fitch’s view of Winterthur’s strategic importance within the Credit Suisse Group (CSG).
Historically, Fitch considered the main Winterthur insurance companies as a core part of CSG and was comforted in this view by the substantial support it provided to Winterthur in 2002 when the core banks in the Group were also being hit by the equity market downturn. Nevertheless, although the agency recognises that operational synergies are achieved between the two groups, these are limited and Fitch perceives Winterthur is no longer core to the activities of CSG.
Partly counterbalancing the move to de-link the Winterthur companies’ ratings from CSG’s, Fitch notes the improvement at Winterthur’s risk profile and profitability over the past year. Fitch takes comfort from the fact that the insurer’s capital adequacy has now returned to an adequate, albeit moderate, level.
The ratings reflect the Winterthur group’s strong business position in the Swiss life and non-life insurance markets and the early success of the recently appointed management team resulting in the substantial, although partial, recovery of the group’s financial profile. They also still factor in some financial flexibility derived from its membership of CSG.
Partly offsetting these strengths are the Winterthur group’s moderate capital adequacy and reduced geographic diversification. Fitch expects the Winterthur group to further improve capital adequacy while maintaining conservative underwriting policy and pursuing a cautious investment policy.
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