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EQUITABLE LIFE ASSURANCE, TRAVELERS AFFIRMED BY A.M. BEST COMPANY

 OLDWICK, N.J., April 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S. and Travelers Insurance Company were among 47 insurers whose Best's Ratings were released in the second issue of "Best's 1994 Rating Monitor: Life/Health edition." Prudential Insurance Company of America and Confederation Life Insurance Company, though included in the Monitor, had their 1994 Best's Ratings released April 14.
 The first edition of "Best's 1994 Rating Monitor: Property/Casualty edition," also was released this week with 18 insurers. Ratings will be assigned every week for the next three months based on our evaluation of 1993 financial results and subsequent relevant events.
 The following are brief rating rationales for The Equitable and five other life/health insurers:
 American United Life Insurance Company, Indianapolis, IN, was assigned a 1994 Best's Rating of "A+" (Superior). The company's "Superior" financial strength was affirmed and its rating was unchanged. The rating reflects the company's conservative operating strategy, overall profitable earnings performance, success in asset management and strong capitalization. Also acknowledged is its excellent market positions established in the group pension and life reinsurance lines of business. Partially offsetting these favorable items is the lack of diversification of statutory earnings, as the vast majority of the company's profits remain attributable to the group pension segment.
 The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, New York, was assigned a 1994 Best's Rating of "A-" (Excellent). The company's "Excellent" financial strength was affirmed and its rating was unchanged.
 This rating assignment reflects The Equitable's improving earnings performance and balance-sheet quality, the superior financial position of its global partner and largest shareholder, Group Axa SA, and the continued strengthening of the company's risk-adjusted capitalization in recent years. Partially offsetting these positives is the insurer's ongoing exposure (although considerably reduced) to commercial mortgage loans and equity real estate investments.
 Due to their strategic roles as subsidiaries of Equitable Life Assurance, Equitable Variable Life Insurance Company, New York, and Equitable of Colorado Inc., Colorado Springs, CO, were assigned 1994 Best's Ratings of "A-." Both companies' financial strength was affirmed and their rating level of "A-" was unchanged.
 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA, was assigned a 1994 Best's Rating of "A++" (Superior). The company's "Superior" financial strength was affirmed and its rating was unchanged.
 This rating reflects the insurer's conservative operating strategy, excellent capitalization, strong liquidity and well-managed agency system. Partially offsetting these items is the existing exposure to mortgage and real estate investments, and the lingering uncertainty that state and federal health care reform efforts pose to its group accident and health operations.
 Despite its sizeable exposure to problem real estate and mortgage loan investments, A.M. Best believes that the company's well-seasoned portfolio, experienced management team and the earnings capacity of its core businesses will continue to provide a considerable degree of insulation to earnings and surplus growth from further deterioration within these asset classes.
 Due to their strategic roles as subsidiaries of Massachusetts Mutual Life, MML Pension Insurance Company, Wilmington, DE, and MML Bay State Life Insurance Company, Jefferson, MO, also were assigned 1994 Best's Ratings of "A++" (Superior).
 Standard Insurance Company, Portland, OR, was assigned a 1994 Best's Rating of "A" (Excellent). The company's financial strength was downgraded from "Superior" to "Excellent," and its rating was downgraded from "A+" to "A."
 This rating assignment reflects the insurer's generally conservative operating strategy and earnings performance, its high-quality investment portfolio and good risk-adjusted capitalization. Partially offsetting these strengths has been the continued growth in its businesses in recent years, which when coupled with the claims-driven decline in earnings performance during 1993, has resulted in a deterioration of its risk-adjusted capitalization. In addition, Standard maintains a significant concentration of business and real estate risk in the California market. However, A.M. Best views positively the company's sound financial position and anticipates earnings improvement during 1994 will be more than adequate to support growth at the current rating level.
 Travelers Insurance Company, Hartford, CT, was assigned a 1994 Best's Rating of "A-" (Excellent). The company's "Excellent" financial strength was affirmed and its rating was unchanged.
 The rating reflects the company's strong national presence in the managed care and employee benefits, individual life and annuity markets, the maintenance of a favorable liquidity position and the continued strengthening of its risk-adjusted capitalization. The rating also acknowledges the substantially increased distribution capabilities and earnings sources of the organization, as well as the improved financial flexibility of its parent company, The Travelers Inc., the newly named entity which resulted from the merger of The Travelers Corporation and Primerica Corporation on December 31, 1993.
 Under this new ownership and management structure, The Travelers has accelerated the expense reduction, restructuring and disposition of underperforming real estate programs initiated by its prior senior management team. While A.M. Best views The Travelers' operational plans positively and believes the completion of these initiatives will substantially improve the company's competitive position, risk-adjusted capitalization and earnings performance over time, investment income and capital losses associated with its real estate-related investments will continue to depress overall statutory operating profitability and capital accumulation over the near term.
 Due to their strategic roles within The Travelers' life insurance operations, The Travelers Life and Annuity Company, Hartford, CT, and The Travelers Insurance Company of Illinois were assigned 1994 Best's Ratings of "A-." Both companies' "Excellent" financial strength was affirmed and their rating of "A-" was unchanged.
 Western National Life Insurance Company, Amarillo, TX, was assigned a 1994 Best's Rating of "A" (Excellent). The company's "Excellent" financial strength was affirmed and its rating was unchanged.
 This rating reflects the company's strong earnings performance in recent years, its high-quality investment portfolio, excellent liquidity posture and favorable risk-adjusted capitalization, as well as the parent company's (Western National Corporation) successful initial common stock offering in February. Partially offsetting these strengths is the concentrated focus of the insurer's operating profile and the interest-sensitive nature of the company's present revenue sources, principally represented by single-premium deferred annuities.
 -0- 4/18/94
 /CONTACT: Rhonda J. Ruch of A.M. Best Company 908-439-2200, ext. 5684/ CO: Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S.; Travelers Insurance
 Company ST: IN: INS SU: RTG


MP -- NY035 -- 7610 04/18/94 10:05 EDT
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Date:Apr 18, 1994
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