TEXT-Fitch comments on Hartford Financial Services Group
(The following statement was released by the rating agency)
Sept 4 - Fitch Ratings says today's announcement regarding Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.'s (HFSG) planned sale of its retirement plans business has no immediate impact on its ratings. HFSG has reached an agreement to sell its retirement plans business to Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (Mass Mutual) for a cash ceding commission of approximately $400 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2012, subject to regulatory approval. The sale will have essentially no impact on HFSG's GAAP net income but will have a positive net statutory capital impact for Hartford Life Insurance Company of approximately $600 million. Fitch views the sale as another step in HFSG's go-forward strategy to focus on property/casualty commercial and consumer markets, group benefits, and mutual funds businesses. To date, individual annuity has been placed into run-off and the company has reached agreements to sell Woodbury Financial Services and its individual annuities' new business capabilities consisting of the product management, distribution and marketing units, as well as the suite of products currently being sold. HFSG continues to pursue divestiture options for its individual life business. Favorably, a successful execution of the strategic plan to sell these noncore businesses should improve HFSG's financial flexibility, with sales proceeds increasing holding company cash that could potentially be used to reduce debt. Fitch already maintains separate Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) ratings on HFSG's life and property/casualty companies that reflect each businesses respective stand-alone financial profiles. HFSG's life insurance subsidiaries maintain 'A-' IFS ratings, which are two notches below the property/casualty IFS ratings of 'A+'. This approach was implemented in February 2009 during the financial crisis to reflect the divergence in operating performance and balance sheet strength between the life and property/casualty operations. HFSG's announcement today does not significantly change Fitch's assessment of the life and property/casualty operating companies' financial strength. Fitch expects that HFSG will continue to support its insurance subsidiaries and maintain insurance company capitalization that is consistent with the current ratings. Fitch affirmed the ratings on HFSG and its property/casualty and life insurance subsidiaries on May 15, 2012. (Caryn Trokie, New York Ratings Unit)
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