A.M. Best Co. has upgraded the issuer credit rating (ICR) to “bbb-” from “bb” and the indicative debt ratings of FBL Financial Group, Inc. (FFG) [NYSE: FFG]. These ratings have been removed from under review with positive implications and assigned a stable outlook.
Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the financial strength rating of A- (Excellent) and ICR of “a-” of FFG’s life insurance subsidiary, Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company (Farm Bureau Life). The outlook for these ratings is stable. Both companies are domiciled in West Des Moines, IA. (See below for a detailed listing of the indicative debt ratings.)
The upgrading of FFG’s ICR reflects its reduced leverage position, improved liability profile and expected reduction in earnings volatility. Using the proceeds from the recent sale of EquiTrust Life Insurance Company (Equitrust) to Guggenheim Partners, FFG’s leverage was reduced by the redemption of $225 million in public and affiliated debt. The sale of Equitrust also makes the enterprise’s liability structure less interest sensitive and allows it to focus on its core Farm Bureau membership.
The affirmation of the ratings of Farm Bureau Life acknowledges its continued strong capitalization, favorable market niche and improved profitability despite increased realized capital losses.Offsetting rating factors include Farm Bureau Life’s high portion of investments in structured securities relative to statutory capital and surplus, its increasing exposure to interest-sensitive products in the current low interest rate environment and its increasing share of annuity sales growth as part of the company’s product mix. Factors that may lead to positive rating actions include successful execution of FFG’s business plan focused on growth within the Farm Bureau market, maintenance of a favorable mix of whole life and interest-sensitive products and sustained positive earnings trends without sizable investment losses. Factors that may result in negative rating actions include a pattern of weakened earnings and coverage, a significant decline in capitalization and an increasing proportion of interest-sensitive reserves relative to total reserves.