A.M. Best Cuts Tower Group Rating to B from B++

December 22, 2013

On Friday, A.M. Best Co. announced that the rating agency has downgraded the financial strength rating (FSR) to B (Fair) from B++ (Good) of the pooled and reinsured members of the Tower US Pool.

The downgrade and other related actions take into consideration Tower’s Dec. 17 announcement that Tower’s management plans to sell its minority share of Canopius Group Limited for $69.7 million, using the proceeds to pay in full $70 million of outstanding credit on an existing credit facility.

The rating actions also factor in Tower’s announcement that it needs to further strengthen prior-year loss reserves in the third quarter in a range between $75-$105 million, Best said, referring to a reserve announcement that came on the same day as the Canopius announcement.

In August, A.M. Best downgraded the Tower ratings to B++ from A-, reacting to Tower’s first indication that reserve charges were likely.

Related article: Downgrade of Tower Group to B++ Likely to Have Further Negative Effects: A.M. Best

As part of the rating action, Best also slashed the issuer credit ratings (ICR) to “bb” from “bbb” Concurrently, A.M. Best has downgraded the ICR and the debt rating on $150 million 5.00% senior convertible notes, due 2014, to “b-” from “bb” of the intermediate holding company, Tower Group, Inc. A.M. Best also has downgraded the FSR to B (Fair) from B++ (Good) and ICR to “bb” from “bbb” of CastlePoint Reinsurance Company, Ltd. (Bermuda).

Additionally, A.M. Best has downgraded the ICR to “b-” from “bb” of the ultimate parent, Tower Group International, Ltd. (Bermuda)

All ratings remain under review with negative implications.

Best said that in addition to the Canopius stake sale and the reserving actions, the rating actions contemplate the anticipated decline in combined U.S. statutory surplus, net of cessions to its Bermuda affiliate, from $374 million at June 30, 2013 to something in the range of $315 million to $335 million at Sept. 30, 2013.

“This announcement comes on the heels of delayed filings, Tower’s second-quarter 2013 earnings, a prior-year reserve charge of $364 million (net of reinsurance) and a goodwill impairment of $214 million,” the Best announcement said. “These rating actions consider the aggregate magnitude of the charges taken during second and third quarters,” Best said in its rating statement, also noting “the material adverse impact on Tower’s risk-adjusted capitalization.”

“The downgrade to vulnerable rating status and the continuation of negative implications is necessitated by the group’s dimmed business and earnings prospects going forward and A.M. Best’s ongoing concerns around further adverse loss reserve development as its impact on future cash flows, liquidity and risk-adjusted capitalization,” the announcement said.

Summarizing the individual carriers impacted by the actions, Best said the FSR has been downgraded to B (Fair) from B++ (Good) and the ICRs to “bb” from “bbb” for the following pooled and reinsured members of Tower US Pool:

Source: A.M. Best

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