A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a+” of Symetra Life Insurance Company (Bellevue, WA) and its subsidiary, First Symetra National Life Insurance Company of New York (New York, NY). Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the ICR of “bbb+” and the debt ratings of “bbb+” on $300 million of 6.125% unsecured notes, due 2016 and “bbb-” on $150 million of fixed-floating unsecured junior subordinated notes, due 2067 of Symetra Financial Corporation (Symetra) (headquartered in Bellevue, WA) [NYSE: SYA]. The outlook for all ratings is stable.

The ratings reflect the organization’s solid liquidity and strong risk-adjusted capital position, diverse revenue stream and the much improved unrealized loss position in its investment portfolio performance. Symetra’s insurance operations continue to generate strong operating earnings across all business lines. Each segment currently comprises approximately one-quarter of Symetra’s total revenue. As a result of the group’s consistent operating earnings, the organization’s risk-adjusted capital remains solid.

Offsetting these strengths is Symetra’s heavy concentration in spread-based and other commoditized product lines, the slowdown of sales in the fixed annuity market and the potential for additional asset impairments given the current economic climate. Symetra’s spread-based products continue to be impacted by the low interest environment. Core interest spreads in income annuities have been decreasing each of the past four years, and as a result, have negatively impacted earnings. In addition, the low interest rate environment has caused a significant decrease in the organization’s fixed annuity sales. Additionally, while Symetra has seen a significant turnaround in its investment portfolio valuation, there is still the potential for additional invested asset impairments.

The principal methodology used in determining these ratings is Best’s Credit Rating Methodology -- Global Life and Non-Life Insurance Edition , which provides a comprehensive explanation of A.M. Best’s rating process and highlights the different rating criteria employed. Additional key criteria utilized include: “Risk Management and the Rating Process for Insurance Companies”; “Understanding BCAR for Life and Health Insurers”; and “ Rating Members of Insurance Groups.” Methodologies can be found at www.ambest.com/ratings/methodology.

Founded in 1899, A.M. Best Company is a global full-service credit rating organization dedicated to serving the financial and health care service industries, including insurance companies, banks, hospitals and health care system providers. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

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