A.M. Best Affirms Ratings of Old Republic Title Insurance Group
|June 7, 2007|
OLDWICK, N.J. -- A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A+ (Superior) and the issuer credit ratings (ICR) of "aa-" of the Old Republic Title Insurance Group and its members (Minneapolis, MN). The outlook for these ratings is stable.
The affirmation of the ratings reflects the group's strong capitalization and favorable operating earnings. Furthermore, the group benefits from the financial flexibility of its publicly traded parent, Old Republic International Corporation, which had $12.8 billion in total assets and $4.5 billion in shareholders' equity as of March 31, 2007. The parent also maintains a conservative balance sheet with low financial leverage.
These strengths are derived from the group's consistent underwriting performance, conservative investment profile and commitment to technology advancement.
These positive rating factors are partially offset by the inherent risks associated with the challenge to manage the real estate cycle, which influences the demand for title insurance products. These include the execution risk of absorbing significant premium advances in earlier years and the challenges in controlling expenses and managing earnings and revenue volatility due to the current weakness in the housing market as the demand for title insurance products is largely derived from transactions in residential real estate.
However, the group's title premium is nationally diversified, which somewhat limits volatility to regional fluctuations in real estate markets. Moreover, approximately two-thirds of the group's premium is generated through independent agents. This enables the group to manage down cycles as fixed costs are generally lower for that distribution channel.
Finally, the group is exposed to some degree of volatility in the regulatory climate as it relates to the title industry.
The FSR of A+ (Superior) and the ICRs of "aa-" have been affirmed for the Old Republic Title Insurance Group and its following members: