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Press release from Business Wire

A.M. Best Ratings Upgrades Ratings of AXIS Capital Holdings Limited

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A.M. Best Ratings Upgrades Ratings of AXIS Capital Holdings Limited

14:00 EDT Wednesday, September 25, 2013

OLDWICK, N.J. (Business Wire) -- A.M. Best Co. has upgraded the financial strength rating (FSR) to A+ (Superior) from A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) to “aa-” from “a+” of AXIS Specialty Limited (AXIS) and its operating affiliates. Concurrently, A.M. Best has upgraded the ICR to “a-” from “bbb+” and all existing debt ratings of AXIS' parent, AXIS Capital Holdings Limited (ACHL) (both domiciled in Hamilton, Bermuda) [NYSE: AXS]. The outlook for all ratings has been revised to stable from positive. (See below for a detailed list of the companies and ratings.)

The ratings reflect AXIS' superior risk-adjusted capitalization, long-term track record of strong operating performance through varied market conditions and robust enterprise risk management controls. AXIS' operating strategy has historically emphasized underwriting profitability with a balanced risk profile. Given the current soft casualty market conditions, the company is well positioned with a diversified book of business and an expanding worldwide infrastructure. AXIS' book of business has historically emphasized short to medium-tail lines and focuses on specialty risks including, but not limited to, property, marine, professional lines, accident and health, credit and bond, agriculture, along with property catastrophe coverages.

AXIS' historical operating performance has been strong, which places it among the top of its Bermudian peer group. In A.M. Best's opinion, AXIS' solid performance is attributable to its highly developed and integrated risk management controls and strong systems capabilities. Furthermore, AXIS retains a very strong level of risk-based capitalization under various A.M. Best stress scenarios.

Partially offsetting these positive rating factors is AXIS' exposure to large catastrophe losses as well as the current soft casualty market environment. These challenges and other rating factors, which could lead to a downgrading of AXIS' ratings or a revision in its outlook to negative, include unfavorable operating profitability trends, outsized catastrophe or investment losses relative to its peers, significant adverse loss reserve development and/or a material decline in its risk-adjusted capital. Alternatively, factors that could lead to an upgrading of the company's ratings include continued long-term favorable operating profitability coupled with maintaining strong risk-adjusted capital levels.

The FSR has been upgraded to A+ (Superior) from A (Excellent) and ICRs to “aa-” from “a+” for AXIS Specialty Limited and its following operating affiliates:

  • AXIS Re SE
  • AXIS Reinsurance Company
  • AXIS Specialty Europe SE
  • AXIS Surplus Insurance Company
  • AXIS Insurance Company

The following debt ratings have been upgraded:

AXIS Capital Holdings Limited—
-- to “a-” from “bbb+” on $500 million 5.75% senior unsecured notes, due 2014
-- to “bbb” from “bbb-” on $250 million 7.50% non-cumulative preferred shares, Series B
-- to “bbb” from “bbb-” on $400 million 6.875% non-cumulative preferred shares, Series C
-- to “bbb” from “bbb-” on $200 million 5.5% non-cumulative preferred shares, Series D

AXIS Specialty Finance LLC (guaranteed by AXIS Capital Holdings Limited)
-- to “a-” from “bbb+” on $500 million 5.875% senior unsecured notes, due 2020

The following indicative ratings have been upgraded under the current shelf registration:

AXIS Capital Holdings Limited—
-- to “a-” from “bbb+” on senior unsecured debt
-- to “bbb+” from “bbb” on subordinated debt
-- to “bbb” from “bbb-” on preferred stock

The methodology used in determining these ratings is Best's Credit Rating Methodology, which provides a comprehensive explanation of A.M. Best's rating process and contains the different rating criteria employed in the rating process. Best's Credit Rating Methodology can be found at www.ambest.com/ratings/methodology.

A.M. Best Company is the world's oldest and most authoritative insurance rating and information source. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

Copyright © 2013 by A.M. Best Company, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Greg Reisner, 908-439-2200, ext. 5224
Managing Senior Financial Analyst
greg.reisner@ambest.com
or
Peter Dickey, 908-439-2200, ext. 5053
Assistant Vice President
peter.dickey@ambest.com
or
Rachelle Morrow, 908-439-2200, ext. 5378
Senior Manager, Public Relations
rachelle.morrow@ambest.com
or
Jim Peavy, 908-439-2200, ext. 5644
Assistant Vice President, Public Relations
james.peavy@ambest.com

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