Yesterday, Fitch Ratings affirmed the debt and credit ratings of
) and its subsidiaries namely, Allstate Insurance Group, Allstate
Financial and Allstate Life Insurance Co.
Accordingly, the ratings agency has affirmed issuer default
ratings (IDR) of "A-" and debt ratings for Allstate Corp.
Alongside, the insurer financial strength (IFS) rating of "A+"
(Superior) and IDR of "A-" has been asserted on Allstate Insurance
Group and its associates. Additionally, Fitch assigned a "BBB+"
rating to Allstate's senior unsecured debt worth $500 million,
issued last month, in order to fund a $350 million debt that is
scheduled to mature this year. These ratings reflect a stable
Although the catastrophe losses eroded most of the profits of
Allstate in 2011, it still remains a leading brand of personal
lines writer and the second best leader in both private passenger
auto and homeowners insurance business.
Meanwhile, a modest capitalization with a statutory surplus of
$15 billion at 2011-end further strengthens the foundation of
Allstate and its subsidiaries. A debt-to-capital ratio of 26% at
2011-end and annual interest expense and common dividends of about
$800 million against deployable assets of $2.2 billion also
reflects stable liquidity.
Furthermore, Allstate's improved automobile and homeowners'
margins due to superior rates along with its underwriting
capabilities, prudent capital management and strong liquidity
continue to be impressive. This has also helped the company to
expand its agency concentration in its operational areas, thereby
revitalizing its distribution channel by having stronger market
Additionally, the acquisition of the third largest online auto
insurer - Esurance - in October 2011, has not only given a fillip
to Allstate's online auto insurance services but this access to
direct distribution has also enhanced the company's competitive
leverage, thereby limiting the growth pace of its arch-rivals Geico
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Further, after posting severe losses of $483 million and $1.7
billion in 2009 and 2008, respectively, followed by nominal
earnings of $58 million in 2010, Allstate Financial posted net
income of $586 million in 2011. Although this operation is yet to
pronounce a consistent growth trend, its widespread clientele
validate raised optimism for future growth.
However, Fitch believes that Allstate's statutory surplus lags
behind the pre-financial crisis levels of $19.1 billion at
2006-end. Even increased catastrophe losses deteriorated the
company's combined ratio to 103.4% in 2011 from 98.1% in 2010.
Moreover, given the increased expenses and claims benefits amid
the unrealized losses on asset-backed securities and the strategic
shift undergoing in its life operations is believed to be of
limited significance on the fundamental growth of Allstate. Hence,
Fitch ratings complement with the company's operating leverage of
2.1x, which is worse than the 1.8x median for Fitch's criterion for
"A" rated companies.
Separately, another ratings agency A.M. Best reassured the
financial strength rating (
) of "A-" (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of "a-" of
Allstate New Jersey Insurance Group (Allstate New Jersey) and its
Nevertheless, Allstate is taking strategic actions to reduce
losses on its business from catastrophes through enhanced property
catastrophe reinsurance program, non-renewals, stricter
underwriting guidelines, increased deductibles and discontinuance
of selected lines of coverage, including earthquake.
Overall, with an operational strategy that enables acclimatizing
to changing market regulations, Allstate is well positioned to
benefit from an improving economy. While Allstate's capital and
liquidity levels are impressive and we anticipate continued
benefits from its industry-leading position, diversification and
pricing discipline, we apprehend that the uncertain economic
environment will continue to affect its premium writings and
investment risk in the upcoming quarters.
Hence, we maintain a Neutral stance on the stock with a Zacks
Rank #3, implying a short-term Hold recommendation.
ALLSTATE CORP (
): Free Stock Analysis Report
BERKSHIRE HTH-A (BRK.A): Free Stock Analysis
PROGRESSIVE COR (
): Free Stock Analysis Report
To read this article on Zacks.com click here.