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A.M. Best Revises Outlook To Negative For United Fire & Casualty Group And Its Property/Casualty Members

A.M. Best Co. has revised the outlook to negative from stable and affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings of “a” of United Fire & Casualty Group (UFCG) and its five property/casualty members, which operate under an intercompany pooling agreement led by United Fire & Casualty Company (UFCC) [NASDAQ: UFCS].

Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of A- (Excellent) and ICR of “a-” of United Life Insurance Company (ULIC), a wholly owned subsidiary of UFCS. The outlook for these ratings is stable. All companies listed above are domiciled in Cedar Rapids, IA. (See below for a detailed listing of companies and ratings.)

The revised outlook for UFCG reflects the decline in the group’s reported underwriting and operating results in recent years, related primarily to the adverse development in 2008 and 2009 of claims related to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and an increase in general liability development, including claims for construction defect. The decline has been relative to both UFCG’s own historic norms and to the average of the commercial casualty composite. While continued adverse development of the Katrina-related claims is anticipated, should other underwriting and operating results not meet or exceed historic norms, there is potential for negative rating actions.

The ratings reflect UFCG’s strong risk-adjusted capitalization, which remains fully supportive of the current ratings. The ratings also consider UFCG’s diversified commercial product offerings, the financial flexibility afforded by UFCC and the group’s long-standing agency relationships and strong regional franchise.

Offsetting these factors are the decline in UFCG’s underwriting and operating results (which were previously discussed), its continued exposure to weather- and catastrophe-related losses and the ongoing competitive pressures in its key target markets.

The ratings of ULIC consider its sufficient level of risk-adjusted capitalization, consistently positive operating performance and its positive unrealized gain position in its investment portfolio, a strong position given the current economic climate.

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