A.M. Best has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a+” of National Interstate Insurance Company and its affiliates, National Interstate Insurance Company of Hawaii, Inc., Triumphe Casualty Company and Vanliner Insurance Company (Fenton, MO) (collectively referred to as National Interstate). Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the ICR of “bbb+” of National Interstate Corporation (NATL) [NASDAQ: NATL]. The outlook for all ratings is positive. All companies are headquartered in Richfield, OH, unless otherwise specified. NATL is 51.7% owned by Great American Insurance Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Financial Group, Inc.
The ratings reflect National Interstate’s excellent long-term operating performance, which outperforms the commercial automobile peer composite, strong risk-adjusted capitalization achieved through generally profitable underwriting results and demonstrated expertise within its niche transportation market. The ratings also acknowledge the company’s experienced management team and conservative operating philosophy. National Interstate’s focus on specialty transportation provides the group with a sustainable competitive advantage, particularly in terms of pricing, claims adjusting and loss control, which has resulted in high policyholder retention rates. Management has broadened the group’s product base through expansion into underserved markets as evidenced by growth within its alternative risk transfer (ART) and transportation components. Additionally, the group’s financial flexibility is enhanced by its publicly traded immediate parent, NATL, which maintains minimal financial leverage and strong interest coverage.
Partially offsetting these positive rating factors are the downturn in underwriting performance in 2013 due to a number of unrelated severe loss events, slight adverse development occurring on the commercial auto line and the concentration of business within the passenger and truck transportation industries.
Positive rating actions could be taken on National Interstate’s ratings if underwriting and operating results improve as anticipated and outperform other similarly rated commercial auto insurers while maintaining a strong level of risk-adjusted capitalization. Key factors that could trigger negative rating actions on the company’s ratings include a weakening in operating performance and/or risk-adjusted capitalization, particularly if the resulting performance trails that of similarly rated peers.
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