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1992 BEST'S RATINGS ASSIGNED TO 156 COMPANIES INCLUDING SEVEN LARGE INSURERS

 1992 BEST'S RATINGS ASSIGNED TO 156 COMPANIES
 INCLUDING SEVEN LARGE INSURERS
 OLDWICK, N.J., May 11 / PRNewswire/ -- A.M. Best Company today released the 1992 Best's Ratings for 156 insurance companies, including General American Life Insurance Company, Great American Life Insurance Company, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, National Life Insurance Company, Reliance Group, Sentry Insurance Group, and the State Farm Group.
 Based on the evaluation of year-end 1991 financial results and subsequent relevant events, 1992 Best's Ratings will be released on a weekly basis through June. To date, ratings have been released for 329 property/casualty and 221 life/health insurers. Best's Ratings are continuously monitored throughout the year with formal rating reviews performed on annual, six-month and nine-month financial results.
 Brief rating rationales are presented below for the seven large insurance entities:
 General American Life Insurance Company, St. Louis, was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed, and its rating level of "A+" was unchanged.
 This rating assignment reflects the company's conservative investment practices, favorable capitalization and improved operating profitability. Over the past two years, General American Life has demonstrated a significant improvement in earnings performance in its individual life and group lines. During 1991, surplus funds increased 19 percent, principally due to a net income of $536 million, a 73 percent increase from 1990 levels. General American Life maintains a liquid investment position with over $2.6 billion in investment-grade bonds, cash and short-term securities held at the close of 1991. The company ranks among the top 50 life/health insurers in the United States when measured by total assets.
 Due to its strategic marketing role as a subsidiary of General American Life, Paragon Life Insurance Company, St. Louis, was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed, and its rating level of "A+" was unchanged. This rating is based on the consolidated performance of the parent and the subsidiary.
 Great American Life Insurance Company, Cincinnati, was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed, and its rating level was changed from "Contingent A+" to "A+."
 This rating action reflects Great American Life's improved balance sheet quality, strengthened earnings performance and improved capitalization. Over the past two years, capital and surplus funds have more than doubled due to contributions from its parent company and an $89.8 million after-tax operating profit for 1991. This extraordinary profit was partially due to a significant reserve adjustment ($62.9 million pre-tax) on in-force business. In addition to this one-time gain, the company experienced an improvement in earnings due to a reduction in credited interest rates on annuity business, the improved quality of the investment partfolio, lower investment expenses and a reduction in new business volume.
 Great American Life maintains a favorable liquidity position with over $3.7 billion invested in high-grade bonds, cash and short-term securities at the close of 1991. The company principally markets tax- sheltered annuity products directed toward teachers' retirement funds. Great American ranks among the top 65 life/annuity insurers in the United States when measured by total assets.
 The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A++" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed, and its rating level was raised from "A+" to "A++."
 This rating assignment acknowledges Guardian Life's conservative operating strategy, strong capitalization, favorable earnings performance and high quality investment portfolio. Over the last five years, Guardian Life has reported nearly $429 million in operating profits after the payment of nearly $824 million in policyholder dividends. This profitability has contributed to a 95 percent increase in surplus funds since the close of 1986. Guardian Life's liquidity is excellent with over $3.7 billion of investment-grade bonds, cash and short-term securities held at year-end 1991.
 The company maintains a strong presence in the small-to-medium case group life and health market and has successfully managed its traditional individual life insurance operation which is primarily focused on the professional and upper income market. The Guardian ranks among the top 59 life/health insurers in the United States when measured by total assets.
 The Guardian Insurance & Annuity Company, Inc. (GIAC), Wilmington, Del., also was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A++" (Superior). The company's financial strength was upgraded from excellent to superior, and its rating level was upgraded from "A" to "A++." This rating action reflects GIAC's status as a principal subsidiary of Guardian Life and its strategic role as a marketer of variable life and annuity products.
 National Life Insurance Company, Montpelier, Vt., was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed, and its rating level was changed from "Contingent A+" to "A+."
 This rating action reflects National Life's improved profitability in recent years, its favorable capitalization and high quality investment portfolio. During 1991, surplus funds increased 9 percent due to statutory operating profits of $34.7 million. The company maintains a strong liquidity position, given its business mix, with over $2.1 billion of investment-grade bonds, cash and short-term securities held at year-end 1991. National Life markets traditional and interest- sensitive life insurance products to upper-income individuals and small businesses. The company ranks among the top 75 life/health insurers in the United States when measured by total assets.
 Due to their strategic marketing roles as subsidiaries of National Life, Vermont Life Insurance Company and Champlain Life Insurance Company, both of Montpelier, were assigned 1992 Best's Ratings of "A+" (Superior). Both companies' superior financial strength was affirmed, and their rating levels were changed from "Contingent A+" to "A+." These ratings are based on the consolidated performance of the parent and the subsidiaries.
 Reliance Insurance Group, Philadelphia, was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A-" (Excellent). The group's financial strength was affirmed, and its rating level of "A-" was unchanged. This rating applies to the Reliance Insurance Group's five inter-company pool members and the Reliance Insurance of New York Group's two inter-company pool members.
 The rating reflects a number of steps management will be implementing during 1992 which will significantly strengthen the Reliance Group. These steps include a major restructuring of the Reliance Group in order to focus on its specialty lines businesses which management has identified as its core operating strategy for the future.
 The restructuring will involve the sale of non-core businesses, such as the announced sale of insurance broker Frank B. Hall, Inc., and the plans to raise a significant amount of new capital. The restructuring, combined with new capital, will improve Reliance Group's balance sheet leverage and liquidity during 1992. Profitability will also improve as the group focuses on its more profitable large commercial and specialty lines businesses. The Reliance Group is the 40th largest underwriter of property/casualty insurance in the United States with over $4.3 billion in assets.
 The Sentry Insurance Group (Property/Casualty), Stevens Point, Wis., was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The group's financial strength was upgraded from excellent to superior, and its rating level was upgraded from "A" to "A+." This rating applies to the group's six inter-company pool members.
 The pool, led by Sentry Insurance A Mutual Company, has produced very consistent operating gains which have led to a 120 percent increase in surplus over the last five years. Leverage is conservative with $716 million in writings supported by $754 million in surplus. Liquidity is superior with $1.2 billion in investment-grade bond holdings and is enhanced by strong cash flows. The Sentry Insurance Group is the 43rd largest underwriter of property/casualty insurance in the United States with over $2 billion in assets.
 State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Bloomington, Ill., was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A++" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed, and its rating level was raised from "A+" to "A++."
 The company is conservatively leveraged with $18.5 billion in direct writings supported by $19.7 billion in surplus. Superior profitability continued with a 1991 combined ratio of 102 and excellent liquidity is maintained with $847 million in cash and short-term investments and is enhanced by strong cash flows. In addition, $21 billion in investment- grade bonds are held.
 State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Bloomington, was assigned a 1992 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The company's superior financial strength was affirmed, and its "A+" rating level was unchanged.
 This stock subsidiary of State Farm Mutual continued to operate with conservative leverage with $7 billion in direct writings supported by $3.6 billion in surplus. The company's liquidity is superior, but profitability in recent years has declined due to storm and earthquake losses.
 Together, the six companies that comprise the State Farm Group (property/casualty) represent the country's largest writers of personal lines insurance and have approximately $51 billion in assets.
 A.M. Best rates and reports on virtually all property/casualty and life/health insurers operating in the United States. Best's Ratings reflect A.M. Best's current opinion of insurers' financial strength and ability to meet policyholder obligations.
 The 1992 Best's Ratings are made available to subscribers and the public as soon as they are assigned, flowing through A.M. Best's publications and its telephone ratings service, BestLine, 900-420-0400. BestLine costs $2.50 per minute and access requires a touchtone telephone and the company's A.M. Best identification number.
 -0- 5/11/92
 /CONTACT: Christina Stein of A.M. Best, 908-439-2200, ext. 5642/ CO: General American Life Insurance Company; Great American Life
 Insurance Company; Guardian Life Insurance Company of America;
 National Life Insurance Company; Reliance Group; Sentry Insurance
 Group; the State Farm Group ST: Missouri, Ohio, New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin,
 Illinois IN: INS SU: RTG


GK-DB -- NY030 -- 8645 05/11/92 12:38 EDT
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Date:May 11, 1992
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