Ratings Roundup: CIBC Re, Exporters, Kenya Re, CISL

October 23, 2008

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating of ‘A’ (Excellent) and issuer credit rating of “a” of Barbados-based CIBC Reinsurance Company Limited (CIBC Re) (Barbados) with stable outlooks. CIBC Re is primarily a life reinsurance company that is ultimately owned by the Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the fifth-largest commercial bank in Canada by assets. It reinsures mainly “credit insurance policies underwritten by third-party life insurance carriers on consumer loans originated by CIBC’s Canadian branches and accepts risks of equivalent magnitude from unaffiliated reinsurers resulting in a book of business, which is diversified by geography and product type,” Best explained. “The ratings consider CIBC Re’s strong risk-adjusted capitalization, good liquidity relative to its in-force book of business.” Best also believes “CIBC Re has the capacity to grow premium volume over the long term given its relatively smaller size compared to peers.”

A.M. Best Co. has revised the outlook to stable from positive and affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of ‘A-‘ (Excellent) and issuer credit rating (ICR) of “a-” of Bermuda-based Exporters Insurance Company Ltd. Best also affirmed the FSR of ‘A-‘ (Excellent) and ICR of “a-” of its separately rated subsidiary, the UK-based Exporters Insurance Company (Europe) Ltd. The outlook for these ratings is stable. Best said “the ratings of Exporters and Exporters Insurance reflect their superior risk-adjusted capitalization, proven performance through market cycles and continued growth in capital and surplus. The ratings also recognize Exporters’ conservative approach to investment management and the company’s strong market position among its membership. Partially offsetting these positive factors are the potential exposure to significant net losses due to major company-specific and global economic events. One of these downturns was experienced in 2002 and 2001, which was the result of financial difficulties in an emerging market country coupled with the contraction within the telecommunications industry.”

A.M. Best Co. has revised the outlook to stable from negative and affirmed the financial strength rating of ‘B+’ (Good) and the issuer credit rating (ICR) of “bbb-” of Kenya Reinsurance Corporation Limited. “The ratings reflect Kenya Re’s strong risk-adjusted capitalization and prospective good operating performance,” said best. “The stable outlook reflects enhancements made to internal controls at Kenya Re, following an investigation into fraud within the company, plus improvements made with regards to the quality of outwards reinsurance securities. Unsophisticated use of catastrophe modeling tools remains an offsetting factor.”

A.M. Best Co. has commented that the financial strength rating (FSR) of ‘A-‘ (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a-” New Zealand’s Consumer Insurance Services Limited (CISL) will remain unchanged as a result of the review on the planned amalgamation of CISL and Credit & General Insurance Limited (CGIL). Both companies are wholly owned operating subsidiaries of Fisher & Paykel Finance Holdings Limited. Best explained: “In fiscal year 2008, a strategic review was completed to reorganize the Fisher & Paykel Finance Group’s insurance operation structure. Commencing in November 2008, the group will begin to operate its insurance and extended warranty businesses under a single operating entity, namely CISL. Accordingly, the portfolio of extended warranty business from F&P Financial Services Limited and the portfolio of consumer credit insurance business from CGIL will be amalgamated into CISL, effective November 1, 2008. Upon the acceptance of these portfolios, the capital and surplus of CGIL will be merged with CISL to support these new risks and ongoing business development.” Best added that the “unchanged rating profile is attributable to the stable strategic profile, consistent underwriting profitability and established operating platform of the underlying business. Upon the amalgamation, CISL will begin to underwrite extended warranty business that was previously ceded to an external party.”

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