AM Best revises ratings of Aspen
AM Best has revised the outlook for the issuer credit ratings (ICR) to positive from stable and affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and the ICRs of “a” of Aspen Insurance UK (AIUK), Aspen Bermuda (ABL), Aspen American Insurance Company (AAIC) and Aspen Specialty Insurance Company (ASIC). The outlook for the FSR remains stable. At the same time, A.M. Best has affirmed the ICR of “bbb” and the issue ratings of Aspen Insurance Holdings (Bermuda), the non-operating holding company of the Aspen group of companies. The outlook for the ICR and the issue ratings has been revised to positive from stable. The ratings reflect AM’s Best’s expectation that Aspen’s consolidated risk-adjusted capitalisation will remain at an excellent level, in spite of a continuing programme of share repurchases. Projected growth in premium volumes, which is mainly targeted within the US insurance market, is expected to be supported by internal capital generation. Additionally, the four subsidiary companies are expected to maintain strong stand-alone risk-adjusted capitalisation. AIUK continues to be the main earnings contributor of the Aspen group, whilst ABL remains important to Aspen’s capital management strategy, as it provides internal reinsurance to the other Aspen group companies and access to third-party business written in Bermuda. Aspen’s US, companies, AAIC and ASIC, provide business diversification for the group and benefit from extensive reinsurance support from ABL, according to the rating agency. The revision of the ICR outlook to positive from stable reflects this continuing financial strength, the group’s recent record of excellent operating performance and its increasingly strong business profile. Over the past five years (2010-2014), Aspen has compiled a record of generally strong operating performances, despite the losses from the unprecedented series of natural catastrophes in 2011, according to AM Best. The firm also said that for the last two full years, and for the first three quarters of 2015, underwriting performance of Aspen has been excellent, with combined ratios below 93 percent. “Aspen’s operating performance for 2015 is expected to remain at an excellent level, assuming normal catastrophe activity for the remainder of the year,” said AM Best. “A pre-tax profit of $214 million was reported in the first three quarters of 2015, a reduction from $300 million at the same point in 2014, reflecting in part an increase in attritional losses, including $30 million from the Tianjin explosion, and significant investment and currency exchange losses.The performance of Aspen’s US-domiciled subsidiaries has been a negative rating factor in the past, largely as a result of the subsidiaries’ high start-up costs relative to net earned premiums, according to the company. It said that the technical results of these subsidiaries have improved however, despite challenging market conditions.“These companies are now making a positive contribution to the group’s profits. AM Best will continue to monitor the performance of these subsidiaries”, said AM Best. Aspen has an increasingly strong business profile in its core markets, supported by its diversified portfolio of property/casualty and specialty insurance and reinsurance business, according to the ratings firm. It said that diversification has improved significantly in recent years through growth in insurance lines and increased geographical spread. “Aspen’s access to business is enhanced by its US subsidiaries and network of branches in Europe, Canada, Singapore and Australia”, said AM Best.