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Fitch upgrades SCOR to A-


PARIS—SCOR S.A., the Paris-based reinsurance group, has been upgraded to A- from BBB+ with a stable outlook by credit rating agency Fitch Ratings.

Fitch's move effectively completes SCOR's rehabilitation as it is the last of the big four rating agencies to upgrade the reinsurance company out of the dreaded B range and back into the A range.

SCOR originally fell out of favor with the rating agencies and into the 'B' range back in 2002 when its results were hammered by huge losses, mainly caused by United States business written by its former alternative risk transfer unit in Bermuda.

France's leading reinsurance company battled on despite being forced out of key markets such as the United States because of its B ratings, by relying on less ratings sensitive markets such as Southern Europe and Asia.

Denis Kessler, former head of the French insurance association, was brought in to lead a ruthless reorganization that has proven successful by reducing volumes and costs but critically returning to profit.

Standard & Poor's Corp. was the first to reward SCOR for it recovery by upgrading it to A- with a stable outlook early in the summer. A.M. Best followed suit on September 8 when it upgraded the reinsurance company from B++ to A-, also with a stable outlook. Moody's was next as it upgraded the company from Baa1 to A3 with stable outlook on October 13.

Fitch said that it had acted because of the group's improved capital adequacy and business position, the positive effects of its ongoing strategic refocusing, including the recent acquisition of Revios, as well as its improving profitability.

The recently published nine month results showed that SCOR is back on track, according to the analysts.

Gross written premiums were up 18% to just over € 2 billion as the group cost ratio improved again by 7.3%.

Operating profit improved strongly, up 54% to € 286 million compared with the first nine months of 2005. Shareholders' equity as up 5.3% to just over € 1.7 billion at the end of September The group's permanent capital, including debt, is up to € 2.6 billion.

Fitch said that SCOR's capital adequacy will stabilize around its currently "adequate" level as future retained profits should account for increased capital requirements demanded by internal growth and the group's debt leverage falls.

"Fitch considers that SCOR's business position will further improve during the important 2007 renewal season. This expectation is based on a more favorable market perception of the group's financial strength, the demonstrated resilience of SCOR's client base and the group's ability to increase its market shares in selected countries and business lines in some of which notable investments have been made," stated Fitch.