A.M. Best Revises Outlook to Positive for ProAssurance Group and ProAssurance Corporation

NJ-A.M.-BEST
http://www.earthtimes.org

OLDWICK, N.J. – (Business Wire) A.M. Best Co. has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A- (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a-â€? of ProAssurance Group (ProAssurance) and its group rated members. A.M. Best also has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the ICR of “bbb-â€? and senior debt rating of “bbb-â€?on $107.6 million 3.9% senior unsecured convertible debentures, due 2023 of ProAssurance’s parent holding company, ProAssurance Corporation (PRA) (NYSE: PRA). 

Additionally, A.M. has revised the outlook to positive from stable and upgraded the ICR to “bb+� from “bb� and affirmed the FSR of B (Fair) of Woodbrook Casualty Insurance, Inc. (Woodbrook) (Birmingham, AL).

Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of A- (Excellent) and ICR of “a-� of Physicians Insurance Company of Wisconsin, Inc. (PIC Wisconsin) (Madison, WI). Additionally, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of B++ (Good) and ICR of “bbb� of NCRIC, Inc. (NCRIC) (Washington, DC). The outlook for these ratings is stable. (See below for a detailed list of the companies and ratings.)

The ratings of ProAssurance reflect its excellent risk-adjusted capitalization, strong operating performance, specialty expertise and leading business position within the medical professional liability insurance sector. A.M. Best also recognizes ProAssurance’s significant geographic diversification, which has been made possible largely by PRA’s successful growth strategy via mergers and acquisitions. PRA’s most recent acquisitions of NCRIC (2005) and PIC Wisconsin (2006) have been smoothly integrated into ProAssurance’s operations.

The ratings also consider the financial flexibility the operating companies, which is derived from PRA. ProAssurance’s financial leverage (total debt/total capital) was a modest 11.6% at December 31, 2007 and will decline further as the redemption of the 3.90% convertible debentures has been authorized. The debentures can be redeemed beginning on July 7, 2008 at a cash redemption price of $107.6 million plus accrued and unpaid interest. PRA’s current intention is to settle the conversion in stock, but it retains the right to settle the conversion for cash or stock or a combination of the two. PRA’s interest coverage also is within bounds for its rating and it currently holds an extensive amount of cash and short-term investments outside of its insurance subsidiaries, which are available for use without regulatory approval.

Partially offsetting these strengths are the inherent challenges associated with the medical professional liability insurance sector as they relate to price competition, legislative (tort) reform, loss cost trends and regulatory challenges. PRA’s exposure to these market risks was heightened with the January 1, 2006 sale of PRA’s highly profitable personal lines insurance operations, MEEMIC Insurance Company. An additional factor is the history of moderate fluctuations in ProAssurance’s earlier operating results, driven by adverse reserve development in prior accident years. However, more recent reserve development has been favorable, reflecting management’s corrective actions and general market conditions.

The FSR of A- (Excellent) and ICRs of “a-� have been affirmed with a revised outlook to positive from stable for ProAssurance Group and its following members:

  • The Medical Assurance Company, Inc.
  • ProNational Insurance Company
  • Red Mountain Casualty Insurance Company, Inc.
  • The FSR of A- (Excellent) and ICR of “a-â€? have been affirmed with a stable outlook for Physicians Insurance Company of Wisconsin, Inc.

    The FSR of B++ (Good) and ICR of “bbb� have been affirmed with a stable outlook for NCRIC, Inc.

    The ICR has been upgraded to “bb+� from “bb� and the FSR of B (Fair) has been affirmed with a revised outlook to positive from stable for Woodbrook Casualty Insurance, Inc.

    The following debt rating has been affirmed with a revised outlook to positive from stable:

    ProAssurance Corporation–

    — “bbb-” on $107.6 million 3.9% senior unsecured convertible debentures, due 2023

    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 http://www.ambest.com/.

    Copyright © 2008 Business Wire. All rights reserved.

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