OLDWICK, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating (FSR) of A- (Excellent) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating (Long-Term ICR) of “a-” of Argus Insurance Company Limited (Argus Insurance) and Bermuda Life Insurance Company Limited (Bermuda Life). Both companies are subsidiaries of Argus Group Holdings Limited (Argus Group) [BSE: AGH.BH]. Concurrently, AM Best has affirmed the Long-Term ICR of Argus Group at “bbb-”. The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) is stable. All companies are domiciled in Hamilton, Bermuda.
The ratings reflect Argus Group’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorizes as very strong, as well as its adequate operating performance, limited business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.
A strength of the Argus Group is its elevated level of aggregate risk-adjusted capital, as measured by Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR). The group’s risk-adjusted capitalization is assessed at the strongest level and increased in fiscal-year 2020, driven primarily by its solid operating performance. The reported gains in 2020 were stable year-over-year, and through the nine-month period that ended Sept. 30, 2020; the results exceeded projections, driven primarily by the decline of net medical claims incurred reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This decline of medical claims is attributed to the reduced healthcare services for non-essential procedures, with care limited to emergencies and care for COVID-19 patients, as well as reduced off-island care seen mostly in the first half of 2020. Argus management also has been actively positioning itself in its operating model to grow its fee business in the wake of Bermuda’s health reform measures that were enacted in mid-2019. The acquisition of two primary care physician practices further diversifies its revenue. This vertical market strategy demonstrates Argus’ adaptability to manage change in the market.
For several years, the company has made significant progress on reducing its exposure to illiquid assets and redeploying capital into high quality and marketable securities to increase liquidity and add financial flexibility. AM Best anticipates that the Argus Group will continue to prudently manage its catastrophe risk exposure to maintain its strongest level of balance sheet strength assessment over the medium term. A challenge for the company continues to be premium development within Bermuda due to health reform measures and extending its reach into other markets.
Health reform policy changes were squarely at the center of the Bermuda government’s agenda in 2019; however, the second phase of this health reform has been tabled without any clear indication of movement toward a national plan. The government has focused on management of the pandemic and its economy with a tourism industry that will be shut down until early 2021. A complete change to a national health plan could place pressure on the company’s ratings; however, Argus still maintains its leading position as a provider of employee benefits and operates as a leading provider of property, auto and employer’s liability insurance. AM Best acknowledges Argus’ drive to expand and diversify premium and earnings. Over the last several years, geographic diversification has increased through its property/casualty segment's growing presence in Malta and Gibraltar.
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