S&P Cuts 10 Life Insurers On Higher Loss Assumptions

by Karen Brettell
Reuters (uk)
February 27, 2009

NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Standard & Poor's on Thursday cut its ratings on a slew of life insurers, including Metlife Inc (MET.N) and Hartford Financial Group (HIG.N), after it increased its loss assumptions for certain securities in relation to the insurers' capital adequacy.

The downgrades also reflect "severe equity market declines and volatility on earnings and capital adequacy," S&P said in a statement. "We expect that the effect of these factors will challenge life companies' competitive strengths and ability to generate profitable business."

S&P cut Metlife one notch to "A-minus," the seventh highest investment grade, and cut its insurance unit one step to "AA-minus," the fourth highest investment grade.

Hartford was also cut one step to "BBB-plus," the third lowest investment grade, while its insurance arm was cut one notch to "A-plus," the fifth highest investment grade. Both of these units remain on review for further downgrade.

Genworth Financial Inc (GNW.N) was downgraded two notches to "BBB", the second lowest investment grade, and its insurance unit two notches to "A," the sixth highest investment grade.

Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N) was affirmed at "A," the sixth highest investment grade, while its core operating subsidiaries were cut one notch to "AA-minus," the fourth highest investment grade.

Other insurers that were cut include Conseco Inc (CNO.N), Lincoln National Corp (LNC.N), Midland National Life Insurance Co, Pacific LifeCorp, Protective Life Corp (PL.N) and Security Mutual Life Insurance Co. of NY.

Symetra Financial Corp retained its rating, but its outlook was changed to negative from stable, while Americo Life Inc was placed on a negative credit watch.

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