A.M. Best Co. has placed under review with positive implications the issuer credit rating (ICR) of “bb” and debt ratings of FBL Financial Group Inc. (FFG) (NYSE: FFG). In addition, A.M. Best has placed under review with developing implications the financial strength rating (FSR) of B+ (Good) and ICR of “bbb-” of EquiTrust Life Insurance Company (EquiTrust). Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of A- (Excellent) and ICR of “a-” of Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company (Farm Bureau Life). The outlook for these ratings is stable. All companies are domiciled in West Des Moines, IA. (See below for a detailed listing of the debt ratings.)
The under review status for the ratings of FFG and EquiTrust follow the announcement that FFG has agreed to sell EquiTrust to controlled affiliates of Guggenheim Partners, LLC, for a preliminary purchase price of $440 million in an all-cash transaction. Furthermore, the under review status for FFG reflects the intention of its management to redeem a total of $225 million in public and affiliated debt with the proceeds from the EquiTrust sale. A.M. Best expects that despite an anticipated loss on the transaction and plans for a stock repurchase authorization of $200 million that these initiatives will strengthen FFG’s quality of capital, financial leverage and interest coverage ratios, while providing more stability of earnings.
Placing the ratings of EquiTrust under review are the result of the uncertainty with respect to its future business plans and capital structure following its acquisition by Guggenheim Partners, LLC. The ratings will remain under review until the transaction is completed, which is expected by year-end 2011 and pending A.M. Best’s discussions with the new management concerning its future strategic plans for EquiTrust. These discussions will include a review of products, expected sales and capital levels.
Farm Bureau Life’s ratings acknowledge its consistently positive, but fluctuating operating earnings, excellent risk-adjusted capitalization levels and somewhat diversified premiums, which have displayed steady, positive trends.