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W.R. BERKLEY CORP. SENIOR DEBT RATED 'AA-' BY FITCH

 W.R. BERKLEY CORP. SENIOR DEBT RATED 'AA-' BY FITCH
 NEW YORK, May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- W.R. Berkley Corp.'s (NASDAQ: BKLY) senior debt is rated 'AA-' by Fitch. The rating applies to $210 million in senior long-term debt outstanding, in addition to $90 million remaining on the company's shelf registration. The credit trend is stable. The rating is indicative of Berkley's very good profitability, prudent balance sheet management, conservative and experienced operating management, and strong cash flow coverage of debt service.
 Despite a soft pricing market for property-casualty risks, Berkley has managed to maintain above average underwriting margins over the last five years. This trend is a result of the company's positioning in favorable insurance markets and cautious underwriting management. Though the outlook for the overall property-casualty market is weak, Berkley should continue to maintain superior profitability. Additionally, the company's six- year old venture into the insurance services business, where no underwriting risks are assumed, has been a source of stable income that is a strong supplement to dividends from the regulated insurance subsidiaries in servicing the holding company's debt.
 Balance sheet quality is high in terms of both invested assets and loss reserving experience. The insurer holds virtually no non- investment grade bonds (less than 1% of assets) and no real estate investments. Loss reserving experience, i.e. the company's ability to adequately reserve for the insurance risks it underwrites, has been good with expected reserves exceeding actual paid claims for the past five years.
 Lastly, Berkley has demonstrated very prudent management of financial leverage. Debt-to-capital has declined in recent years due to excellent profitability and internally-generated capital. The company's debt-to-capital ratio rose, however, to 32% at the end of 1992's first quarter from 20% at the end of 1991 due to the issuance of $100 million in senior debt, largely raised to fund potential strategic acquisitions. Also, the double leverage ratio of the holding company at year-end 1991 is moderately high at 119%.
 The increasing financial leverage and holding company double leverage are mitigated by several factors. After-tax cash flow at the holding company is very strong from insurance subsidiary dividends, management fees from the insurance services companies, and tax sharing payments from all subsidiaries. Dividends upstreamed are well below regulatory limits in addition to the insurance company units being well-capitalized. These two factors are further strengthened by good operating profitability that is expected to continue, likely into the next upturn in the industry's cycle.
 -0- 05/14/92
 /CONTACT: David P. Wells of Fitch, 212-908-0517/
 (BKLY) CO: W.R. Berkley Corp. ST: IN: INS SU: RTG


JP -- NY070 -- 0198 05/14/92 11:52 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:May 14, 1992
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