AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating (Long-Term ICR) of “a+” of QBE Europe nv/sa (Belgium), QBE UK Limited (United Kingdom), and the pooled members of QBE North America Insurance Group (see list below). The outlook of the Long-Term ICR has been revised to negative from stable, while the outlook of the FSR is stable. These companies are key operating subsidiaries of QBE Insurance Group Limited (QBE) (Australia), the non-operating holding company of the QBE group of companies.
In addition, AM Best has revised the outlook to negative from stable and affirmed the Long-Term ICR of “bbb+” of QBE, which AM Best has concurrently withdrawn at the company’s request.
These Credit Ratings (ratings) reflect QBE’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best assesses as very strong, as well as its strong operating performance, favourable business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.
The negative outlook on the Long-Term ICR reflects pressure on QBE's strong operating performance assessment following recent weaker-than-expected results, including an operating loss for 2020, driven by underwriting losses and a significant impairment of goodwill. Whilst the group has implemented actions to strengthen performance and demonstrated underlying performance improvements in recent periods, these have so far had limited positive impact on reported results. Should these actions fail to return the group's operating performance metrics to a level more supportive of a strong assessment in the near-to-medium term, a negative rating action on the Long-Term ICR is likely.
The group’s strong operating performance assessment reflects a track record of robust underwriting performance, supported by a diverse earnings profile. However, comparatively weaker performance in recent years has weighed on QBE’s five- (2016-2020) and 10-year (2011-2020) weighted average combined ratios of 100.4% and 98.3%, respectively (as calculated by AM Best and inclusive of the impact of changes in risk free rates).
QBE reported a combined ratio of 107.4% for 2020 (104.2% excluding the impact of changes in risk free rates), inclusive of underwriting losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as adverse prior year reserve development and elevated catastrophe losses. In addition to the underwriting loss for the year, QBE reported impairments to goodwill and other charges, contributing to an operating loss of USD 1.5 billion (2019: profit USD 547 million).
Despite incurring a sizeable operating loss during 2020, QBE's consolidated risk-adjusted capitalisation remained resilient, and was categorised at the very strong level at year-end, as measured by Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR). QBE’s balance sheet resilience reflects actions undertaken in the first half of 2020, which included raising capital, de-risking the investment portfolio and the purchase of additional reinsurance protection to offset the adverse underwriting and investment impacts arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. QBE’s balance sheet strength assessment is also supported by the group’s conservative and liquid investment portfolio and strong financial flexibility. A partially offsetting factor is the adverse prior year development of the central reserve estimate in 2020, arising from the group’s North American and International divisions.
QBE’s favourable business profile assessment reflects its excellent geographic diversification and its strong competitive positions in its core markets, with an established focus on commercial lines insurance.
The FSR of A (Excellent) and the Long-Term ICR of “a+” have been affirmed, with the outlook of the Long-Term ICR revised to negative from stable and the outlook of the FSR maintained at stable, for the following pooled members of QBE North America Insurance Group:
- General Casualty Company of Wisconsin
- General Casualty Insurance Company
- NAU Country Insurance Company
- North Pointe Insurance Company
- Praetorian Insurance Company
- QBE Insurance Corporation
- QBE Reinsurance Corporation
- QBE Specialty Insurance Company
- Regent Insurance Company
- Southern Pilot Insurance Company
- Stonington Insurance Company
This press release relates to Credit Ratings that have been published on AM Best’s website. For all rating information relating to the release and pertinent disclosures, including details of the office responsible for issuing each of the individual ratings referenced in this release, please see AM Best’s Recent Rating Activity web page. For additional information regarding the use and limitations of Credit Rating opinions, please view Guide to Best’s Credit Ratings. For information on the proper media use of Best’s Credit Ratings and AM Best press releases, please view Guide for Media - Proper Use of Best’s Credit Ratings and AM Best Rating Action Press Releases.
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