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A.M. Best Affirms Ratings Of W. R. Berkley Corporation And Its Subsidiaries

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A+ (Superior) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “aa-” of the property/casualty members of Berkley Insurance Group (Berkley Insurance), Admiral Insurance Group (Admiral), Berkley Regional Group (Berkley Regional) and Nautilus Insurance Group (Nautilus).

A.M. Best also has affirmed the FSR of A+ (Superior) and ICR of “aa-” of Berkley Life and Health Insurance Company (Berkley Life and Health) (Urbandale, IA).

Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the ICR and debt ratings of “a-” on senior unsecured notes and “bbb” on trust preferred securities of the parent company, W. R. Berkley Corporation (W. R. Berkley) (Greenwich, CT) [NYSE: WRB]. The outlook for all ratings is stable. (See link below for a detailed list of the companies and ratings.)

The rating affirmations follow W.R. Berkley’s third quarter earnings release and take into consideration the group’s solid pricing momentum in the quarter, sustained year-to-date underwriting profits, solid overall earnings and earnings prospects going forward. W. R. Berkley’s ratings further recognize the organization’s financial flexibility as evidenced by its ability to access capital. While W. R. Berkley has historically maintained above average financial leverage, strong earnings have fueled the improved capital levels of its subsidiaries and led to the company’s debt-to-total capital trending lower over the last several years. However, its leverage has remained above that of industry peers.

At September 30, 2012, W. R. Berkley’s unadjusted debt to capital (including trust preferred securities) stood at 33%, near the high end of the company’s stated target range for financial leverage of 25% to 35%. W. R. Berkley’s financial leverage is expected to improve following repayment of the $200 million unsecured senior notes at their maturity on February 15, 2013. While weather-related losses from Hurricane Sandy are expected to place only slight pressure on 2012 underwriting results, W. R. Berkley’s earnings are expected to remain solid, and both its cash coverage ratios and financial leverage should remain supportive of its ratings. A.M. Best will continue to closely monitor both measures, particularly financial leverage, to ensure that all remain in line with A.M. Best’s expectations, and more importantly, continue to support the ratings.

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