NOVEMBER 10, 2020 09:23 AM (EST)

Best’s Special Report: AM Best-Rated Debt Issuance Surges Over 30% from 2019 Amid Pandemic


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 Jason Hopper
Associate Director,
Industry Research and Analytics
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OLDWICK - NOVEMBER 10, 2020 09:23 AM (EST)
Total debt issued among AM Best-rated insurers increased 31% to $56.0 billion during the 12-month period that concluded Sept. 30, 2020, as insurers responded to the potential negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new AM Best report.

Debt issuance among this group in the first half 2020 vastly outpaced that same prior-year period, with the period between March and May experiencing the most activity. The Best’s Special Report, titled, “AM Best-Rated Debt Issuance Surges Over 30% from 2019 Amid Pandemic,” notes that debt issuance among life/annuity (L/A) companies jumped by more than two-thirds with many citing the need to bolster liquidity. The health segment also reported a $3 billion uptick compared with 2019, with UnitedHealth Group, Cigna Corp., and Anthem, Inc. all among the 10 largest issuers so far this year.

“Issuances from health insurers have been for general corporate purposes, as well as to redeem or tender higher-coupon issued debt coming due over the next few years,” said Jason Hopper, associate director, industry research and analytics.

The analysis for the special report did not include those issuances unrated by AM Best, such as Wilton Re’s $400 million issuance of privately placed preferred stock, and converted foreign-denominated issuance to USD. The report also notes an uptick among just about all types of issuance, including preferred stock, as well as surplus notes from non-publicly traded companies that cannot access the public debt market.

Despite the increased debt load for the health segment, its interest coverage ratio improved on strong operating results in 2019 and so far through first-half 2020, driven by the significant decline in member utilization resulting from the COVID-19 shutdowns and the deferral of routine care and elective procedures. Health care utilization reverted back to near normal levels in the third quarter, but may decline again as many states are now seeing hospital capacity weaken as a new wave has led to an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Total debt issuance by L/A insurers increased nearly 65% year-over-year through September 2020. The interest coverage ratio for AM Best-rated L/A companies has dipped from its peak in 2019, where it will likely remain if 2020 earnings decline due to lower sales in the COVID-19 environment, as well as persistent low interest rate pressure.

To access the full copy of this special report, please visit http://www3.ambest.com/bestweek/purchase.asp?record_code=302921 .

AM Best is a global credit rating agency, news publisher and data analytics provider specializing in the insurance industry. Headquartered in the United States, the company does business in over 100 countries with regional offices in New York, London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico City.