A.M. Best Co. has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the financial strength rating of A- (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a-” of Fidelity National Title Insurance Company (Santa Barbara, CA), Chicago Title Insurance Company, Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company (both domiciled in Omaha, NE) and Alamo Title Insurance Company (San Antonio, TX) (collectively referred to as the Fidelity National Financial Group). These four domestic title insurance companies are subsidiaries of Fidelity National Financial, Inc. (FNF) (headquartered in Jacksonville, FL) (NYSE: FNF). In addition, A.M. Best has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the FSR of A- (Excellent) and the ICR of “a-” of the separately rated title insurance subsidiary of FNF, FNF Title Insurance Company Ltd. (FNF Malta) (Floriana, Malta). Concurrently, A.M. Best has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the ICR of “bbb-” of FNF.
The positive outlook reflects Fidelity National Financial Group’s improved risk-adjusted capitalization, driven by improved underwriting results and lower underwriting leverage measures, as well as its strong market profile as the largest title insurance group in the United States, having a market share of approximately 34%, as of year-end 2012. In addition, the group achieved surplus growth in excess of 25%, in total, over the past five years, despite the depressed housing and real estate market conditions, mainly due to aggressive expense management initiatives, which caused the expense ratio to decrease over nine points and allowed the enterprise to continue to report positive operating results over the past four years. Fidelity National Financial Group also benefits from the financial flexibility and operational support of FNF, which maintains relatively modest financial leverage and has made capital contributions to certain group members in recent years.
These positive rating factors are somewhat offset by Fidelity National Financial Group’s challenge to manage and sustain operating performance through the current downswing in the real estate cycle; although, recently, housing and real estate markets have shown some improvement. The significant slowdown in the U.S. housing market negatively impacted the group’s profitability, as evidenced by the significant decline in its revenue during the five years ending 2011. However, Fidelity National Financial Group undertook aggressive efforts to achieve operating efficiencies, which along with its flexible cost structure, helped to somewhat mitigate the effects of this down cycle and has positioned it to take advantage of an improved housing market.