GWO: DBRS Downgrades to Pfd-2(high)

DBRS has announced that it:

has today downgraded Great-West Lifeco Inc.’s (GWO or the Company) Debentures to A (high) from AA (low), its Non-Cumulative First Preferred Shares to Pfd-2 (high) from Pfd-1 (low), and has also assigned an Issuer Rating of A (high) to the Company. At the same time, DBRS assigned a Financial Strength Rating (FSR) of AA to GWO’s major operating subsidiaries: The Great-West Life Assurance Company, The Canada Life Assurance Company and London Life Insurance Company. The Great-West Life Assurance Company’s Issuer Rating was confirmed at AA, and its Preferred Shares were confirmed at Pfd-1. The Canada Life Assurance Company’s Subordinated Debentures were confirmed at AA (low). Lastly, DBRS has withdrawn the Claims Paying Ability ratings of the three operating subsidiaries, replacing them with the newly assigned FSRs. All trends are Stable. All rating actions are detailed in the table below. The rating actions taken today follow the publication of DBRS’s new methodology, “Global Methodology for Rating Life and P&C Insurance Companies and Insurance Organizations” (December 2015) (Global Insurance Methodology).

The downgrade of the holding company ratings results from the application of DBRS’s newly implemented Global Insurance Methodology, which favours a wider notch differential between holding and operating company ratings than in prior methodologies. Specifically, the senior debt of the holding company, GWO, is positioned two notches below the FSR of its major operating subsidiary, The Great-West Life Assurance Company. Among other factors, the notching reflects the structural subordination of the holding company’s creditors to the operating company’s creditors in an insolvency situation, and recognizes the reliance of the Company on the upstreaming of earnings from its operating companies.

In confirming the ratings of the operating subsidiaries, DBRS evaluated GWO’s fundamentals using the Global Insurance Methodology. GWO is the largest insurance company in Canada, with a dominant market position for both individual insurance and group benefits and savings. The Company also has extensive operations in the United States and Europe. The Company has strong financial metrics, including a decreasing financial leverage (debt, hybrids and preferreds to capital) ratio of 26.5% at Q3 2015, a minimum continuing capital and surplus requirement (MCCSR) ratio of 234% and an above-peer return on equity that has been in the mid-teens for the past several years.

The Stable trend considers the Company’s resilient fundamentals and its ability to adapt to the current challenging operating environment. Negative ratings pressure could arise if the Company’s fundamentals weaken because of a reduction in earnings, with a deterioration in fixed-charge coverage ratios. Positive rating pressure could arise if there is a material reduction in financial leverage or improved profitability at Putnam.

The new methodology is discussed in the post DBRS Releases and Applies New Insurance Company Methodology.

Affected issues are: GWO.PR.F, GWO.PR.G, GWO.PR.H, GWO.PR.I, GWO.PR.L, GWO.PR.M, GWO.PR.N, GWO.PR.P, GWO.PR.Q, GWO.PR.R, and GWO.PR.S.

3 Responses to “GWO: DBRS Downgrades to Pfd-2(high)”

  1. gsp says:

    Does Great-West Life Assurance Company have any outstanding pref shares? I can’t seem to find any but I’m assuming DBRS wouldn’t have confirmed a Pfd-1 rating on non-existent shares.

  2. jiHymas says:

    Does Great-West Life Assurance Company have any outstanding pref shares?

    Not according to the 2015 Annual Report, which only mentions GWO preferreds, and not according to OSFI’s MCCSR report for GWL , which reports a zero balance for “Non-cumulative perpetual preferred shares”

    A while ago GWL.PR.O was listed but that was redeemed in 2010.

  3. gsp says:

    Thanks James.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.