Best Affirms Ratings for ING Canada Group

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength ratings of A+ (Superior) and has assigned issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “aa-” to the ING Canada Group (ING Canada) (Toronto). A.M Best has also upgraded the financial strength ratings to A+ (Superior) from A- (Excellent) and B+ (Very Good) for Allianz Insurance Company of Canada (Allianz Insurance) and Trafalgar Insurance Company of Canada (Trafalgar), respectively. Both ratings have been removed from under review with developing implications.

The group now includes Allianz Insurance, Belair Insurance Company Inc., ING Insurance Company of Canada, ING Novex Insurance Company of Canada, The Nordic Insurance Company of Canada and Trafalgar. Additionally, A.M. Best has assigned an ICR of “a-” to ING Canada Inc. (TSX: IIC.LV). All ratings have a stable outlook.

The financial strength ratings reflect ING Canada’s superior risk-based capitalization and the added financial flexibility of ING Canada Inc. following its successful initial public offering in December 2004. The ratings take into consideration the group’s consistently profitable operating performance and strong management team, which is experienced in growth through the acquisition process. ING Canada benefits from diverse product lines, multiple channels of distribution and geographic spread across Canada, as well as their leadership position in the Canadian personal lines and small to medium-sized commercial property/casualty insurance markets.

Partially offsetting these rating strengths are the pricing and reserving risks associated with re-underwriting the Allianz Insurance and Trafalgar books. These companies’ were purchased by ING Canada Inc. in December 2004. In addition, ING Canada will be challenged by the emergence of competitive market pricing particularly in commercial lines; and the risk of uncertainty regarding the long-term underwriting effects on personal auto due to regulatory reforms in most provinces across Canada.

ING Canada remains challenged to produce strong investment returns and realized gains during the current prolonged period of low interest rates and weak equity markets. In addition, ING Canada bears the added risk of re-underwriting the Allianz Insurance and Trafalgar accounts. A.M. Best anticipates continued underwriting profitability in the near term.

However, premium revenue could be hindered by more competitive pricing, particularly in commercial lines, and by automobile premium rate freezes and roll backs initiated by regulatory changes in most provinces. Based on these factors, the potential for deterioration in ING Canada’s long-term overall underwriting profitability exists.