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A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A- (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a-” of the four title insurance subsidiaries (collectively referred to as the Fidelity National Financial Group) of Fidelity National Financial, Inc. (FNF) (headquartered in Jacksonville, FL) [NYSE: FNF]. Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the ICR of “bbb-” of FNF. The outlook for all ratings is stable.
The ratings reflect Fidelity National Financial Group’s adequate capitalization and strong market profile as the largest title insurance group in the United States, having a market share of approximately 35%, as of year-end 2011. The group maintains a strong franchise value with Fidelity National Financial Group’s leading brands: Fidelity National Title Insurance Company (Santa Barbara, CA), Chicago Title Insurance Company, Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company (both domiciled in Omaha, NE) and Alamo Title Insurance Company (San Antonio, TX). In addition, the group benefits from the financial flexibility and operational support from FNF, which maintains relatively modest financial leverage and has made capital contributions to certain group members in recent years.
These positive rating factors are somewhat offset by Fidelity National Financial Group’s challenge to manage and sustain operating performance through the current downswing in the real estate cycle. The significant slowdown in the U.S. housing market in recent years has negatively impacted the group’s profitability. However, Fidelity National Financial Group continues to undertake aggressive efforts to achieve operating efficiencies, which along with its flexible cost structure, have helped to somewhat mitigate the effects of this down cycle.
The ICR of FNF recognizes the capital strength of its insurance subsidiaries, its modest financial leverage and adequate interest coverage measures.
While A.M. Best believes FNF and Fidelity National Financial Group’s ratings are well positioned at their current levels, factors that may lead to positive rating actions include a trend of improved operating results while maintaining favorable underwriting leverage and risk-adjusted capitalization. However, factors that may lead to negative rating actions include a trend of further deteriorating underwriting and operating profitability or the erosion of surplus to such an extent that it causes a significant rise in underwriting leverage measures.
The methodology used in determining these ratings is Best’s Credit Rating Methodology, which provides a comprehensive explanation of A.M. Best’s rating process and contains the different rating criteria employed in the rating process. Key criteria utilized include: “Risk Management and the Rating Process for Insurance Companies”; “BCAR for Title Insurance Companies”; “Rating Title Insurance Companies”; “Insurance Holding Company and Debt Ratings”; and “Rating Members of Insurance Groups.” Best’s Credit Rating Methodology can be found at www.ambest.com/ratings/methodology.
Founded in 1899, A.M. Best Company is the world’s oldest and most authoritative insurance rating and information source. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.
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