Recently, the issuer credit rating (:ICR) and debt rating of W. R. Berkley Corporation (WRB) were affirmed by A.M. Best Co. at “a–” and “bbb” for senior secured notes and trust preferred securities, respectively. The rating agency also assigned a “bbb+” debt rating to the company’s $350 million 5.625% subordinated debentures due 2053.
Additionally, A. M. Best affirmed the financial strength rating (:FSR) and ICR of W. R. Berkley Insurance Group at “A+” and “aa-”, respectively. W. R. Berkley Insurance Group consists of Berkley Insurance Company and 24 of its reinsured subsidiaries and affiliates.
All the above-mentioned ratings of W. R. Berkley carry a stable outlook.
The ratings for W. R. Berkley Insurance Group were affirmed on the basis of its long-term trend of favorable underwriting and operating results, strong brand name, reasonable diversification level, and low exposure to catastrophic events.
Good planning and execution of business strategies and favorable prior-year loss reserve development over the past few years also played a role. However, the impact of poor economic environment, falling investment results and high competition partially offset these positives.
While the stable outlook indicates low possibility of a rating revision in the near term, if W. R. Berkley Insurance Group generates significant improvement in operating earnings, leading to stronger risk-adjusted capitalization and enhanced financial leverage, as well as continues to maintain a conservative approach to reserve creation, then an upward revision in outlook is possible.
Alternatively, if W. R. Berkley Insurance Group witnesses considerable adverse reserve development, weakening risk-adjusted capitalization, deteriorated financial leverage and significant decline in operating earnings or future earning prospects, then a downward revision can take place.
W. R. Berkley carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other property & casualty insurers worth considering are White Mountains Insurance Group, Ltd. (WTM), Hilltop Holdings Inc. (HTH) and Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd. (MRH). All these companies carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
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