CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings has upgraded the Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of American Equity Investment Life Holding Company (AEL) to 'BBB-' from 'BB+' and revised the Rating Outlook to Stable from Positive. A full list of rating actions follows at the end of this release.
The 'BBB+' IFS ratings of AEL's insurance operating subsidiaries American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company (AEILIC) and American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company of New York are unaffected by today's rating action.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
The upgrade of AEL's IDR follows the pricing yesterday of the company's public offering of 8.6 million shares of common stock, of which 4.3 million shares are subject to a forward sales agreement to be settled on one or more dates over the next 12 months. Fitch believes that proceeds from the issuance will be more than adequate to reduce AEL's financial leverage ratio below the previously established rating trigger of 30% for upgrading the company's IDR.
Fitch also anticipates that AEL will maintain its interest coverage ratio above 8x for the foreseeable future. GAAP interest coverage has improved to 8.4x in the first half 2015 from 7.0x in 2014 and 5.9x in 2013 driven by strong operating performance coupled with gradual reduction in outstanding debt.
AEL's ratings continue to reflect the high credit quality within the company's bond portfolio, continued favorable operating results, adequate risk-adjusted capitalization and the company's strong competitive position in the fixed indexed annuity market. The ratings also reflect AEL's above-average exposure to interest rate risk and lack of diversification in earnings and distribution.
AEL is headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa and reported total GAAP assets of $46.2 billion and equity of $1.9 billion at June 30, 2015.
The ability of AEL to achieve a higher IFS rating is somewhat constrained by the company's limited diversity of earnings and cash flow given a heavy focus on fixed indexed annuities. This constraint could be overcome by the following:
--Enhanced capitalization with RBC above 350% on a sustained basis;
--Financial leverage below 25%;
--Continued stable or improved operating results and investment quality.
The key rating triggers that could result in a downgrade include:
--A reduction in capitalization with RBC below 300%;
--Sustained deterioration in operating results such that interest coverage is below 3x;
--Significant increase in lapse/surrender rates;
--Financial leverage above 40%.
FULL LIST OF RATING ACTIONS
Fitch has upgraded the following ratings and revised the Outlook to Stable from Positive:
American Equity Investment Life Holding Company
--IDR to 'BBB-' from 'BB+';
--3.500% senior convertible debentures due 2015 to 'BB+' from 'BB';
--6.625% senior unsecured notes due 2021 to 'BB+' from 'BB';
--Trust preferred securities to 'BB-' from 'B+'.
Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com
Insurance Rating Methodology (pub. 14 Jul 2015)
Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form