Ratings Roundup: Assurant, Dongbu (U.S.), Home Pointe

October 29, 2007

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has affirmed its ‘BBB+’ counterparty credit rating on Assurant Inc., removed it from CreditWatch negative, and assigned a negative outlook to the company. S&P also affirmed its ‘A’ counterparty credit and financial strength ratings on Assurant’s subsidiaries, removed their ratings from CreditWatch, and assigned a negative outlook. “These ratings actions reflect our assessment that the uncertainties related to the unresolved SEC investigations into certain loss-mitigation insurance products are unlikely to cause a change in the existing ratings,” indicated S&P credit analyst Shellie Stoddard. “This conclusion comes after consideration of the firm’s financial condition, the likely scope of the inquiries, and discussions with Assurant’s senior management and board.” S&P added that it believes that the “underlying operating performance and competitive position of the core operations remains intact and unlikely to suffer severely given the more likely results of the investigations.” Stoddard added that S&P had nevertheless “assigned a negative outlook reflecting our concerns about the distraction and performance impact that may occur from the governance issues given that three senior managers are involved.”

A.M. Best Co. has assigned a financial strength rating of ‘A-‘ (Excellent) and an issuer credit rating of “a-“to Hawaii-based Dongbu Insurance Company Limited (USB), in line with that of its parent, Dongbu Insurance Company, Ltd. The outlook for both ratings is stable. “The extension of the rating to the U.S. branch takes into consideration the explicit guarantee that all of the assets of the home office company are available in the event of a liquidation of the branch,” Best explained. “This guarantee has been filed with Hawaii regulators and is acknowledged through an endorsement to the policies issued by the branch.”

A.M. Best Co. has placed the financial strength rating (FSR) of ‘B+’ (Good) and issuer credit rating (ICR) of “bbb-” of Home Pointe Insurance Company, which is based in Coral Gables, Fla., under review with negative implications. Best said it took the rating actions following the announcement that Home Pointe’s parent company, North Pointe Holdings Corporation (NPHC) of Southfield, Mich. “has entered into a definitive agreement for the sale of Home Pointe to American Capital Assurance Corporation, a subsidiary of Safe Harbour Holdings, LLC, a Florida domiciled insurance holding company. As a result of the agreement, Home Pointe will become a subsidiary of American Capital.” Best added that the “under review status takes into consideration the change in ownership and the rating constraints placed on Home Pointe due to its immediate parent, American Capital, which was founded in 2006 and currently unrated. These rating actions also consider the increased underwriting leverage of American Capital in the intermediate term, including the acquisition of Home Pointe.”

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