A.M. Best has upgraded the issuer credit rating (ICR) to “aa” from “aa-” and affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A+ (Superior) of Contractors Bonding and Insurance Company (CBIC) (Seattle, WA), a member of the RLI Group (RLI). In addition, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of A+ (Superior) and the ICRs of “aa” of the remaining members of RLI. A.M. Best also has affirmed the ICR of “a” and debt rating of “a” on $150 million 4.875% senior unsecured notes due 2023 of RLI's publicly traded parent holding company, RLI Corp. [NYSE: RLI]. The outlook for all ratings is stable. All companies are domiciled in Peoria, IL, unless otherwise specified. (See below for a detailed listing of the companies and ratings.) The upgrading of the ICR of CBIC reflects the strategic importance the company provides to RLI by offering another admitted product platform for rate flexibility and product diversification as well as through the expansion of RLI’s geographic footprint in the northwest/western portion of the United States, which provides access to a new network of producers. The integration of the management and technology platforms has essentially been completed and products can now be cross-sold within RLI. The ratings also acknowledge CBIC’s strong stand-alone risk-adjusted capitalization and historically profitable operating and underwriting results. A.M. Best expects that CBIC will remain essential to RLI’s core operations and provide implicit and/or explicit support in the future should it be warranted. The rating affirmations take into consideration RLI Corp.’s solid 2013 financial results and favorable first quarter 2014 earnings announcement. The ratings also reflect RLI's superior capitalization, sustained long-term operating profitability and excellent business profile as one of the leading specialty property/casualty insurance organizations in the United States. RLI has been able to maintain its focus in disciplined niche underwriting by concentrating on markets that are often underserved, which help to somewhat insulate it from the various stages of the traditional property/casualty market cycle. The ratings acknowledge the strong financial flexibility afforded by RLI Corp., as evidenced by its modest financial leverage and strong fixed charge coverage.
Partially offsetting these positive rating factors is RLI’s above average equity leverage, which could potentially lead to earnings volatility in more turbulent financial market conditions.A.M. Best believes that RLI is well positioned at its current rating level. Key rating drivers that could lead to downward rating pressures is a deterioration in RLI’s underwriting performance and/or a significant decline in its risk-adjusted capitalization. The FSR of A+ (Superior) and ICRs of “aa” have been affirmed for the following members of RLI Group:
- Mt. Hawley Insurance Company
- RLI Indemnity Company
- RLI Insurance Company