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Argo Group outlook revised to stable by AM Best

AM Best has revised its outlook for Argo Group and its subsidiaries. Argo Group has offices on Pitts Bay Road, Pembroke. (Photograph by Google Maps)

AM Best has revised its outlook to stable from negative and affirmed the credit ratings for Argo Group International Holdings Ltd and its subsidiaries.

The rating agency said the change reflects “all of the positive actions taken by management to address and resolve a US Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry in late 2019 related to the company’s non-disclosure of certain compensation-related perquisites, which was subsequently resolved in June 2020, and the sweeping changes made to Argo’s Board of Directors with an aim toward greater accountability, transparency and better shareholder engagement”.

AM Best noted the appointment of a new chairman of the board, Thomas Bradley, and a new chief executive officer, Kevin Rehnberg, “to guide Argo and set strategy in the years ahead”.

It said: “This change in leadership has allowed for better collaboration and decision-making between management and the board when assessing directives and setting strategy, including those established in 2020.”

AM Best has affirmed the financial strength rating of A- (excellent) and the long-term issuer credit ratings of “a-” of Argo Re Ltd and its subsidiaries.

In addition, it has revised the outlooks to stable from negative, and affirmed the long-term ICR of “bbb-” and the long-term issue credit ratings of the parent, Bermudian-based Argo Group International Holdings Ltd.

AM Best said the ratings reflect Argo Re’s balance sheet strength, which it assesses as “strongest, as well as its adequate operating performance, neutral business profile and marginal enterprise risk management”.

The agency said the rating actions also considered Argo’s improved balance sheet strength and risk-adjusted capital adequacy from replacing short-term loans with more permanent forms of hybrid capital, as well as the alleviating of some concerns around potential reserve development from Syndicate 1200 through its recent reinsurance-to-close transaction covering Argo’s net technical provisions in 2017 and prior years.

Also acknowledged was Argo’s fourth-quarter results. AM Best said it expects continued improvement over the near term, following Argo’s recently completed strategic initiatives to exit some of its non-profitable, non-strategic businesses. Going forward, AM Best expects Argo to maintain its strongest level of balance sheet strength, adequate operating performance and neutral business profile.

AM Best added: “These ratings also contemplate the material weakness in internal controls related to financial reporting, which were recently identified by Argo in its most recent 8-K filing for year-end 2020 and the revisions to previously issued financial statements related to years 2018, 2019 and the adjustments made in the fourth quarter and year-end 2020. While the implications of these findings are viewed as insignificant from a financial perspective, they reflect an internal control weakness in the financial reporting framework as it relates to enterprise risk management.”

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Published March 15, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated March 14, 2021 at 5:54 pm)

Argo Group outlook revised to stable by AM Best

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