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/FOURTH AND FINAL ADD -- NY040 -- A.M. BEST ISSUES 490 RATINGS/

 Signet Reinsurance Company, Basking Ridge, N.J., and North Star Reinsurance Corporation, Florham Park, N.J., have been assigned 1993 Best Ratings of "A" (Excellent). Both companies' excellent financial strength was affirmed and their rating level of "A" was unchanged.
 On Feb. 18, 1993, the companies' parents, General Re Corp. of Stamford and W.R. Berkley Corp. of Greenwich, Conn., announced an agreement in principle to form a new holding company that will acquire all the stock of Signet Re and North Star Re. Under the agreement, Berkley will own shares representing 60 percent of the new holding company, with General Re Corp. owning the balance of 40 percent. The transaction will include the assumption of pre-1993 liabilities of the companies by their respective parent to allow the combined entity to have a strong balance sheet with no suspect loss reserves.
 "A.M. Best believes the merger should benefit both companies by creating a larger, more stable and more marketable reinsurer within the broker community," said John H. Snyder, senior vice president of Best's property/casualty division. Combined surplus of the new entity will be in excess of $230 million, with an established premium base of over $150 million. Upon completion of the transaction, A.M. Best will re-evaluate the rating of the new entity as regards its management, underwriting strategies and future business plans. The transaction is expected to close sometime in the third quarter of 1993.
 United Health and Life Insurance Company, Des Moines, Iowa, was assigned an initial 1993 Best's Rating of "A" (Excellent).
 This rating reflects the company's good capitalization, its consistent profitability and strong support from the parent organization, United HealthCare Corporation. The company's role as a strategic subsidiary of United HealthCare Corporation provides the insurer with significant competitive advantages, including expense efficiencies and access to managed care and other ancillary services provided by United HealthCare affiliates. This enables United Health and Life to maintain below-average expense ratios and underwrite business on a profitable basis.
 "The company is well-capitalized, which A.M. Best believes will enable it to fund anticipated business growth," said Larry G. Mayewski, senior vice president of Best's life/health division. "Nevertheless, the company also has the backing of the financial resources of the parent organization to fund future growth, should it be required," he added.
 United HealthCare serves over 1.9 million subscribers through its owned and managed health plans and provides specialty managed care products and services to employers, employee groups, insurers, HMOs and other health care providers. Among its capabilities, United HealthCare provides medical information and data management services, health benefit administrative services, risk assessment and managed care delivery.
 Through United Health and Life, the parent corporation is able to offer insurance products such as group life, dental, disability, point of service and stop-loss coverages to complement its HMO activities. These products permit employers to recognize lower costs by replacing multiple health care policies and carriers with a single health care plan.
 Due to their strategic roles as affiliates of United HealthCare Corporation, United Health and Life Insurance Company of Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, and United Health and Life of New England Inc., Warwick, R.I., also were assigned initial 1993 Best's Ratings of "A" (Excellent).
 Western & Southern Life Insurance Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, was assigned a 1993 Best's Rating of "A++" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed and its rating level of "A++" was unchanged.
 This rating reflects the company's strong capitalization, conservative investment portfolio, good liquidity profile and solid position within the home service life insurance market. The rating also acknowledges the diversification that is received through its subsidiaries, which have been generating increasing sales volume. Somewhat offsetting these strengths are the slightly weakened trends in the company's consolidated operating profits which are adversely affected under statutory accounting by increases in new business activity.
 "Western & Southern has maintained its strong consolidated capital position in recent years both through operating profits and unrealized capital gains from investments," said Larry G. Mayewski, senior vice president of Best's life/health division. Additionally, the company has complemented its strong market niche within the home service business through its various subsidiaries which provide access to several targeted market segments. Its subsidiary, Columbus Life Insurance Company, focuses its activities in the upper and upper-middle income+ market, while Western & Southern Life Assurance Company concentrates its activity on the sale of interest sensitive type products. Over the past few years, the company has seen its operating profits decline somewhat due to the lower investment yields associated with a declining interest rate environment and an increased focus on growing annuity sales in its Western-Southern Assurance Company subsidiary, which adversely impacts statutory profitability.
 The company's liquidity position is supported by over $3.4 billion in investment-grade bonds, cash and short-term investments (55 percent of consolidated general account assets). Although Western & Southern maintains a manageable exposure to commercial mortgage investments, A.M. Best believes that the company has favorable liquidity characteristics, as evident in its consistent cash flow and the stable and long-term nature of its liability structure. Western & Southern ranks among the 85 largest life/health insurers when measured by total assets.
 Due to its strategic role as a subsidiary of Western & Southern Life, Western & Southern Life Assurance Company, Cincinnati, was assigned a 1993 Best's Rating of "A++" (Superior). This rating reflects the consolidated performance of the parent and this subsidiary. The company's activities are principally concentrated in the sales of interest sensitive-type products.
 The W.R. Berkley Group is comprised of 16 property/casualty companies that specialize in either regional commercial and personal lines, specialty and excess and surplus lines or reinsurance. All 16 W.R. Berkley companies are rated as having either "Excellent" or "Superior" financial strength.
 In addition, the companies benefit from a strong parent holding company that is dedicated to the property/casualty industry and provides its decentralized group of member companies with substantial financial flexibility and expertise in strategic planning, designing and purchasing of insurance programs and investment management.
 "The W.R. Berkley Group has demonstrated a long track record of providing support to its member companies in many of the areas cited above and has built many of its companies into leaders within their respective markets," according to John H. Snyder, senior vice president of Best's property/casualty division. W.R Berkley Group ranks among the 85 largest property/casualty insurers in the U.S. with $420 million of written premium supported by $434 million of surplus.
 Admiral Insurance Group, Wilmington, Del., was assigned a 1993 Best's Rating of "A++" (Superior). The group's superior financial strength was affirmed and its rating level was raised to "A++" from "A+." The rating applies to the consolidated results of the Admiral Insurance Company. This rating reflects the group's outstanding profitability, management's conservative operating strategy and strong balance sheet. These strengths are the result of management's disciplined expertise and leading position within the excess and surplus lines market. The company has been very successful in capitalizing on the volatile excess and surplus market by aggressively growing during the 1986 to 1988 profitable market conditions, followed by maintaining a disciplined posture since 1988 as market place conditions became very competitive. This has led to flat premium growth in recent years, with an actual decline in volume in 1992. The company's underwriting expertise and discipline has generated superior returns with a five-year operating ratio of 65, which is 30 points better than the industry. The company has excellent capitalization with $62 million in writings supported by $138 million in surplus. Furthermore, the company's capitalization is enhanced by good financial flexibility of the parent holding company with a debt-to-equity ratio of 43 percent.
 In addition, Carolina Casualty Insurance Company, Jacksonville, Fla., was assigned a 1993 Best's Rating of "A" (Excellent). The company's financial strength was affirmed and its rating level of "A" was unchanged.
 This rating reflects the company's good profitability within the volatile long haul trucking insurance sector, with a five-year combined ratio of 99.3, more than nine points better than the industry. Management's conservative operating strategy and good capital position. These positive rating factors are enhanced by management's commitment to loss reserve adequacy, as evidenced by a $4.5 million increase of prior accident year reserves made in 1992 and major changes made to the truck and bus underwriting and pricing guidelines. As a result, net premiums written decreased by 17 percent in 1992 and leverage measures improved further. These positive rating factors are offset by the highly competitive climate in the long haul trucking insurance sector and the unlikelihood of market improvement in the near future. Carolina Casualty is the second largest company in the W.R. Berkley Group with $71 million in written premium, supported by surplus of $54 million.
 Continental Western Group, Urbandale, Iowa, was assigned a 1993 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The group's financial strength was affirmed and its rating level of "A+" was unchanged. The rating applies to the group, led by Continental Western Insurance Company and an affiliate that reinsures its business with the company.
 This rating reflects the group's very good operating performance, closely controlled and focused underwriting strong capitalization. These positive rating factors stemmed from the group's profitable niche commercial and personal lines regional business, which are focused in seven midwestern states that are excellent operating and regulatory environments. Superior profitability has been maintained with a five- year average combined ratio of 97, which is 13 points better than the industry average. The company further strengthened its loss reserves by 10 percent. Continental Western Insurance Company is the largest of the W.R. Berkley regional companies with $116 million in written premiums, supported by $64 million in surplus.
 Also, Tri-State Insurance Company of Minnesota, Luverne, Minn., was assigned a 1993 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed and its rating level of "A+" was unchanged.
 This rating reflects management's conservative operating strategy, closely controlled and focused underwriting and the company's strong capitalization. These positive rating factors are derived from Tri- State's successful experience and expertise in the grain elevator and rural personal lines markets. Due to competitive market conditions and inadequately priced business, Tri-State's written premiums declined slightly in 1992. Although pretax operating income modestly declined, the company generated a healthy 14 percent return on equity. The company, on a consolidated basis, was among the largest companies in the W.R. Berkley Group with $50 million in written premium, supported by $42 million in surplus.
 -0- 6/28/93 AC NY040
 /PRNewswire -- June 28/


CO: ST: IN: INS SU: RTG

TS -- NY040D -- 6240 06/28/93 12:29 EDT
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