A.M. Best Affirms Ratings of Aspen Specialty Insurance Company and Aspen American Insurance Company [Professional Services Close - Up]

Proquest LLC

A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings of "a" of Aspen Specialty Insurance Company (ASIC) (Bismark, ND) and Aspen American Insurance Company (AAIC) (Dallas, TX).

Both companies are wholly owned subsidiaries of their ultimate parent, Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited (Aspen) [NYSE: AHL]. The outlook for all ratings is stable.

These ratings are based upon A.M. Best's criteria "Rating Members of Insurance Groups" and take into consideration the roles and strategic importance of ASIC and AAIC to Aspen's overall U.S. strategy. Additionally, the ratings reflect the explicit support provided through the substantial quota share reinsurance of ASIC and AAIC's net business by their Bermuda-based affiliate, Aspen Bermuda Limited (ABL). Moreover, ABL also provides a guarantee of all of ASIC and AAIC's third-party reinsurance recoverables. In addition, ASIC's balance sheet is further protected by an adverse development cover for its outstanding loss reserves as of December 31, 2008. The ratings also acknowledge the implied support of future parental commitment.

ASIC and AAIC continue to maintain solid stand-alone capitalization, which has been enhanced by low underwriting and investment leverage as well as capital contributions from Aspen. Although pricing pressures appear to be abating, competition continues to pose a significant challenge to ASIC and AAIC as both attempt to establish Aspen's presence in the United States. Toward this end, management has made significant investments in new underwriting teams and infrastructure. Given the aforementioned, A.M. Best will closely monitor the operating performance of both companies, with particular focus on execution and their ability to achieve business projections.

Based on their group ratings, any future rating actions for ASIC and AAIC will likely be in accordance with any future rating actions on ABL.

Factors that may lead to negative rating actions on ASIC and AAIC could result from their continued sub-par operating results, further divergence in operating performance relative to ABL, a material deterioration in their stand-alone risk-adjusted capitalization and/ or any lessening of support (implied or explicit) provided by ABL. These ratings do not take into consideration potential losses from Hurricane Sandy, as estimates from this recent event are unavailable at this time.

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