Ratings: AMI, Cattolica, Seguros ING, BNY

October 13, 2008

A.M. Best Co. has upgraded the financial strength rating to ‘A+’ (Superior) from ‘A’ (Excellent) and the issuer credit rating to “aa-” from “a+” of New Zealand’s AMI Insurance Limited. Best also revised the outlook for both ratings to stable from positive. “The ratings are based on an analysis of the consolidated financial accounts of the AMI Members Trust, of which AMI is the only operating entity,” Best explained. “The ratings reflect AMI’s well-established market position, solid risk-adjusted capitalization, consistent operating profitability and corresponding surplus accumulation. AMI has a strong business profile in personal lines, particularly in the private motor business. In fiscal year 2008, the company continued to maintain its strong market position in the private motor market and has maintained a similar market profile over the last three years. AMI’s stable business profile is supported primarily through its extensive branch network across New Zealand. As evident in the company’s business growth, premium volume has consistently been increasing throughout the past decade and averaged 6.4 percent over the past five years.”

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating of ‘A ‘(Excellent) and the issuer credit rating of “a” of Italy’s Societa Cattolica di Assicurazione – Societa Cooperativa (Cattolica). However, Best said the outlook for both ratings remains negative. “The ratings,” Best said, reflect its “expectation of an improving non-life underwriting performance, strong risk-adjusted capitalization and enhancing business profile in the life sector”. The negative outlook reflects Best’s concerns that Cattolica “may not be able to sustain the improvements in the non-life underwriting performance, and Cattolica’s business profile in life may further decline.” Best also indicated that “Cattolica’s non-life underwriting performance was below expectations in 2007 mainly due to the decline in motor rates and the reserve strengthening for motor third party liability claims. There was, however, an improvement in the loss frequency, which resulted in a decline in the combined ratio from 106.7 percent to 103.9 percent in 2007. In the first six months of 2008, there was further significant improvement of the combined ratio to 96.7 percent.

A.M. Best Co. has withdrawn the financial strength ratings (FSR) of ‘A’ (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a” of Seguros ING, S.A. de C.V. and ING Fianzas,
S.A. de C.V
., both Mexican subsidiaries of the Netherlands ING Group. Best also assigned a category NR-4 (Company Request) to the FSRs and an “nr” to the ICRs. Best explained that the ratings had been “placed under review with negative implications on February 15, 2008,” following the announcement that the ING Group had entered into an agreement to sell its Mexican P/C operations to France’s AXA S.A. Best said that it has “not received from Seguros ING and/or ING Fianzas any of the information it requested,” and has therefore been “unable to engage the new management in discussions regarding strategic plans for both companies and their future role within AXA S.A.” As a result Best indicated that it is not in a “position to conclude on a final opinion on the financial strength of these companies, beyond our previous opinion at the time the ratings were placed under review.”

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating of ‘A-‘ (Excellent) and issuer credit rating of “a-” of Bermuda-based BNY Trade Insurance Ltd. with a stable outlook. “The ratings reflect BNY Trade Insurance’s strong capitalization, consistent positive operating results and conservative operating strategy,” said Best. “Partially offsetting these positive rating factors are the company’s limited market scope, product mix and BNY Trade Insurance’s substantial concentration in the investment of its assets. An additional offsetting rating factor is BNY Trade Insurance’s large (gross) underwriting exposures as it offers very high gross insurance limits and insures excess bankers’ professional liabilities with substantial insured values.” In addition, however, Best noted that the “ratings recognize BNY Trade Insurance’s excellent business position with its close ties to its parent, The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, a leading global financial services company. BNY Trade Insurance is a wholly owned subsidiary of BNY Mellon, and BNY Trade Insurance provides comprehensive reinsurance/insurance coverages/products.

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