A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a” of the property/casualty subsidiaries of CNA Financial Corporation (CNAF) [NYSE:CNA], also known as CNA Insurance Companies (CNA). Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the ICR of “bbb” and all debt ratings of CNAF and CNA Financial Capital I, II and III. 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. All above named companies are headquartered in Chicago, IL. (See below for a detailed listing of the companies and ratings.)
The rating actions reflect CNA’s excellent 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 underwriting 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. A.M. Best views positively 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.
Partially offsetting these positive rating factors are CNA’s exposure to the adverse impact related to its discontinued long-term care program and other long-term liabilities on underwriting and operating performance, and the current highly competitive environment in its property/casualty markets, which will likely pressure underwriting margins over the near term.
Over the past five years, CNA’s specialty lines segment (CNA Specialty) has achieved excellent underwriting results, while its standard commercial lines segment’s (CNA Commercial) performance has improved but still continues to trail that of competitors, resulting in CNA’s aggregate property/casualty underwriting margins underperforming its peer composite. The group’s current operational focus is to improve profitability with increasing rates and shift to targeted, higher margin customers and industry segments.
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