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A.M. Best Affirms Ratings Of Markel Corporation And Its Domestic Subsidiaries

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of "a+" of the members of the Markel North America Insurance Group (Markel). Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of B++ (Good) and ICR of “bbb+” of FirstComp Insurance Company (FirstComp) (Omaha, NE). Additionally, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of A- (Excellent) and ICR of “a-” of Deerfield Insurance Company (Deerfield) (Deerfield, IL), as well as the ICR of “bbb+” and all debt ratings of the publicly traded parent, Markel Corporation (MKL) (Glen Allen, VA) [NYSE: MKL]. The outlook for all ratings is stable. (See below for a detailed listing of the companies and ratings.)

The rating affirmations of Markel recognize its well-established market position as one of the leading excess and surplus lines organizations in the United States, its sustained operating profitability and solid risk-adjusted capitalization. Additionally, these ratings acknowledge Markel's excellent operating cash flow, adequate liquidity and the financial flexibility afforded by MKL.

While Markel continues to benefit from its long-standing reputation among U.S. wholesalers and retailers, Markel's recent underwriting performance continues to be adversely affected by prevailing soft market conditions as well as increased expenses. Markel has long maintained underwriting leverage higher than the average of the surplus lines composite. However, this is tempered by Markel’s conservative loss reserving practices and the release of prior years' loss reserves, which has served Markel well in terms of risk adjusted capital and lower earnings volatility.

Acquired by MKL in October 2010, the ratings for FirstComp recognize its strategic role within the group but also take into consideration its relatively narrow business profile, competitive market pressures and the challenges related to today's current macroeconomic factors. The ratings of FirstComp also consider its adequate risk-adjusted capitalization, favorable historical and prospective underwriting performance and the explicit support provided by Markel and its affiliate, Evanston Insurance Company, through quota share reinsurance, which covers 50% of all business written on and after November 1, 2010. FirstComp has become one of the leading providers of workers' compensation coverage in the United States, specializing in small, main street businesses in underserved rural markets across 28 states.

The ratings for Deerfield acknowledge its low underwriting leverage and the partial rating enhancement it receives through the implied support of Markel.

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