Fitch: U.S. Title Insurance Industry Capital Position Improves

Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:58pm EDT

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(The following statement was released by the rating agency) CHICAGO, June 10 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings views the U.S. title insurance industry as strongly capitalized with a risk-adjusted capital (RAC) score of 168% in 2013 compared with 166% in 2012 for its rated universe marking the fifth straight year of improvement. The industry RAC score is calculated on a weighted average basis. As such, Fidelity National Financial, Inc. (Fidelity) and First American Financial Corp (First American), whose combined market share is 60%, greatly influence results. Leading the improved RAC scores was a 6% increase in aggregate stated policyholders' surplus in 2013 mainly due to earnings and unrealized investment gains. Augmenting this increase was a $78 million increase in Fitch's view of statutory reserve redundancy. This reserve adjustment is driven by a view that the industry's statutory balance sheet loss reserves, which are formula-based, are overstated. However, Fitch also believes that actuarially estimated reserves as shown in Schedule P of statutory financial statements are understated and will continue to develop adversely in the near term, albeit at a lower magnitude than prior years. Continued lean expense structures contributed to solid RAC scores in 2013. Expense leverage and agency risk (R11), the largest risk charge in the RAC score at 34% of total charges before covariance adjustments, increased in concert with title operating revenues in 2013. An offsetting factor to the RAC improvement was the industry's large loss and ceded reinsurance charge (R10), which represents 21% of total charges before covariance adjustments, increased significantly in 2013. This charge measures an underwriter's exposure to a large, net single risk, though full limit losses are rare. Fitch anticipates that title insurance industry capitalization, as measured by the RAC ratio, will remain near current levels in 2014. Surplus will likely remain relatively flat in the near term. While shareholder dividends could vary by company, Fitch anticipates that distributions will be supported by earnings and not capital. The full report 'Title Insurers' 2013 Risk-Adjusted Capital Adequacy' is available at 'www.fitchratings.com.' Analysis of company-specific variances in capital adequacy is included in the report. Contact: Gerald B. Glombicki, CPA Director +1-312-606-2354 Fitch Ratings, Inc. 70 West Madison St. Chicago, IL 60602 Dafina M. Dunmore, CFA Director +1-312-368-3136 Media Relations: Brian Bertsch, New York, Tel: +1 212-908-0549, Email: brian.bertsch@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. Applicable Criteria and Related Research: North American Title Insurers’ 2013 Risk-Adjusted Capital Adequacy here ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

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