A.M. Best Co. has upgraded the financial strength rating (FSR) to B++ (Good) from B+ (Good) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) to “bbb” from “bbb-” for the key life/health subsidiaries of CNO Financial Group, Inc. (CNO Financial) (Carmel, IN) [NYSE: CNO]. Concurrently, A.M. Best has upgraded the ICR and existing senior debt ratings to “bb” from “bb-” of CNO Financial. The outlook for these ratings is stable.
Additionally, A.M. Best has assigned a debt rating of “bb” to CNO Financial’s forthcoming issuance of $250 million senior secured notes due 2020. The assigned outlook is stable. (See below for a detailed listing of companies and ratings.)
The upgrades reflect the favorable trends in CNO Financial’s operating earnings, core product sales and risk-adjusted capitalization. In addition, A.M. Best acknowledges the significant progress made by CNO Financial’s management in executing its strategic business plan. The growth in earnings has been attributable to CNO Financial’s diverse revenue streams from its insurance subsidiaries. Improved revenue across several business segments—driven by agent growth, timely rate increases and the addition of new products—also have contributed to the group’s higher profitability. CNO Financial’s enhanced operating results, combined with its better investment performance, have facilitated growth in the insurance subsidiaries’ risk-adjusted capitalization. A.M. Best notes that Bankers Life and Casualty Company, the group’s lead operating entity, has seen considerable improvement in its capitalization over the past 12 to 18 months.
The rating actions also reflect the success CNO Financial has had in focusing on markets where true competitive advantages are achievable while, at the same time, actively managing risk. This strategy included exiting/de-emphasizing non-core product lines through divestiture and/or reinsurance, considerable expense reductions and, most recently, initiating a recapitalization plan. A.M. Best views favorably CNO Financial’s planned debt restructuring, which will enhance financial flexibility by reducing its cost of capital and improving its debt maturity profile. Moreover, A.M. Best believes the company’s ability to maintain solid profitability and foster capital growth has better positioned CNO Financial with respect to its credit agreement.