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A.M. Best Affirms Ratings Of CNA Financial Corporation And Its Subsidiaries

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a” of CNA Insurance Companies (CNA) and its property/casualty members. Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the ICR of “bbb” and debt ratings of CNA Financial Corporation (CNAF) (NYSE:CNA).

A.M. Best also has affirmed the FSR of A- (Excellent) and ICR of “a-” of CNAF’s life/health subsidiary, Continental Assurance Company (CAC). The outlook for all ratings is stable. The above companies are headquartered in Chicago, IL. (See below for a detailed listing of the companies and ratings.)

The ratings reflect CNA’s strong level of risk-adjusted capitalization, consistent and profitable operating performance and established position as a leading writer within the commercial lines segment of the U.S. property/casualty industry. In addition, the ratings recognize initiatives undertaken by CNA’s management to improve operating performance; its vastly improved technological infrastructure, which has enhanced data collection and segment reporting tools; and its continued focus on enterprise risk management. Moreover, in 2010, CNA transferred approximately $1.6 billion of the group’s net legacy asbestos and environmental (A&E) liabilities to National Indemnity Company. While CNAF recognized an after-tax GAAP charge of $365 million in 2010 as part of this transaction, A.M. Best views the long-term benefits CNA will derive from the substantial reduction in the uncertainty of its legacy A&E liabilities and potential A&E earnings drag positively.

Partially offsetting these positive factors are the group’s exposure to the adverse impact related to the company’s discontinued long-term care program and other long-term liabilities on operating performance, and the current highly competitive environment in its property/casualty markets, which will likely pressure underwriting margins over the near term.

In recent years, CNA’s specialty lines segment (CNA Specialty) has achieved excellent underwriting results, while its standard commercial lines segment’s (CNA Commercial) performance has continued to trail that of competitors, resulting in CNA’s aggregate property/casualty underwriting margins underperforming its peer composite. Operating performance for CNA Commercial has improved in recent years, and the gap to peers is beginning to narrow. The group’s current operational focus in CNA Specialty is to continue to invest resources and capitalize on market opportunities, while CNA Commercial’s focus is to improve profitability with increased rates and an accelerated shift to targeted, higher margin customers and industry segments.

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