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EMEA Insurance Monitor: November 2021

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U.S. Property/Casualty Insurers Are Effectively Navigating Pandemic Challenges


EMEA Insurance Monitor: November 2021

Credit Conditions For EMEA Insurers

Key Takeaways
  • The European insurance sector is mostly back to the previous status quo, that is, the lower-for-longer interest rate environment. In some markets, vehicle traffic is still below historical levels, benefitting motor insurers with lower frequency claims.
  • Flooding events and wildfires in Europe have come at great human and economic cost; the insured loss appears manageable for rated non-life insurers in those regions.
  • Despite rate increases in the reinsurance sector in 2021, challenges remain for those reinsurers with exposure to flooding events in Europe, China, and, in the U.S., California wildfires and a busy start to the U.S. hurricane season. 2021 may become an active claims year for reinsurers.
Key risks
  • Pandemic-related volatility in the capital markets and subsequent investment losses.
  • Increasing downgrades of corporate bonds, and rising capital requirements as a result.
  • Low interest rates, which mainly hurt life insurers with legacy investment guarantees in their back books.
  • Rising claims volatility, potentially outpacing rate increases for reinsurers.

Table 1

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Key developments

First-half 2021 results evidenced comfortable operating earnings for European non-life insurers, while life insurers continue to suffer low interest rates. While flooding events in some European regions represent an earnings event for non-life insurers, we don't expect a ratings impact. Our rated non-life primary insurers generally have advanced reinsurance programs in place. Tailwinds from a lower number of motor frequency claims should fade over time as traffic trends back to normal. European life insurers continue to promote capital-light products, cutting costs, searching for yield pickup to cover guarantees in legacy back books, and taking opportunities to offload them by sale or reinsurance.

European insurers are well placed to weather potential capital market volatility as capital surpluses recover. Even during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, European insurers' ratings proved resilient against external shocks, and the sector kept its average rating in the 'A' range. Capitalization and diversification are key strengths for European insurers.

Reinsurers are facing an active natural catastrophe year. Losses so far this year indicate that 2021 could potentially be another expensive natural catastrophe loss year for the reinsurance industry. In Europe, the floods in July were a significant loss event, followed by Hurricane Ida in August, while insured natural catastrophe losses in the first half of the year have been the second highest on record. The global reinsurance sector in 2017-2020 didn't earn its cost of capital due to COVID-19-related losses, large natural catastrophe losses, adverse loss trends in certain casualty lines, and fierce competition among reinsurers exacerbated by alternative capital. As a result, our sector view of the global property/casualty reinsurance sector remains negative. At the same time, we expect the firming rate environment will continue in the upcoming P/C renewal season in 2022.

Chart 1

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Rating Actions: May 2021-October 2021

Component subscores for all rated EMEA insurers were published on Oct. 11, 2021 (see "EMEA Insurers Ratings List: Financial Strength Ratings And Scores").

Movements in ratings, outlooks, and scores for major EMEA insurers in the past six months have continued the upward trend of prior periods (see "EMEA Insurance Monitor: May 2021," published May 4, 2021, and "EMEA Insurance Monitor: November 2020," published Nov. 6, 2021). Of the 56 large rated insurers we list below, we saw 12 positive movements in scores, ratings, or outlooks, and only two negative movements. Of the 14, six were upgrades. We revised three outlooks to positive and one to stable. Two further rating changes followed acquisitions, while we also revised subscores of KLP and Reso-Garantia without affecting the overall ratings.

We have removed RSA Insurance Group PLC (RSA) from our list of top insurers as we withdrew our ratings on it at the issuer's request on Aug. 20, 2021. At the time of the withdrawal, our outlook on RSA was stable.

Main causes of rating and score movements

The upgrades of Helvetia, Gothaer, and Ingosstrakh reflected their strong and resilient performance despite capital market volatility due to the pandemic, while the upgrade of CNP was due to reduced uncertainty around its capital buffer. The improved creditworthiness of Bank Otkritie Financial Corp. led to an upgrade for its subsidiary Rosgosstrakh, while an upgrade of Gulf followed an improvement in its capital position.

Mergers and acquisitions were a notable source of outlook and score changes. We placed our ratings on Cattolica on CreditWatch positive following Assicurazioni Generali's offer to acquire the company, and revised several scores on Covea on its plans to buy PartnerRe.

The outlook revision to stable from negative for KBC Insurance mirrors the same action on its parent, KBC Group. We downgraded Aviva's French subsidiaries Aviva Vie And Aviva Assurances following their sale to Aema Groupe, but affirmed our other ratings on the Aviva group.

Our other rating actions in the past six months were for more idiosyncratic reasons.

Ratings in the tables below are correct as of Oct. 28, 2021.

Table 2

Issuer Credit Ratings And Component Scores For Key Insurers In EMEA
Ratings and scores are correct as of Oct. 28, 2021
Institution LC FSR LC FSR Outlook Anchor/ SACP/ GCP BRP IICRA Competitive position FRP Capital and earnings Risk exposure Funding structure Governance CRA
EMEA reinsurers
Hannover Rueck G AA- Stable AA- Very strong Intermediate risk Very strong Strong Very strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Hiscox A Stable A- Strong Intermediate risk Strong Satisfactory Satisfactory Moderately low Neutral Neutral 1
Lloyds of London A+ Stable A+ Very strong Intermediate risk Very strong Satisfactory Very strong High Neutral Neutral 0
Munich Re AA- Stable AA- Very strong Intermediate risk Excellent Strong Very strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
SCOR AA- Stable AA- Very strong Low risk Very strong Strong Very strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Swiss Re AA- Negative AA- Very strong Intermediate risk Excellent Strong Very Strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Austria
UNIQA Insurance A Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Very strong Moderately low Moderately Negative Neutral 0
Vienna Insurance A+ Stable A+ Strong Intermediate risk Strong Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Belgium
Ageas A+ Stable A+ Strong Intermediate risk Strong Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
KBC A Stable (Negative) A- Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
France
SGAM LA MONDIALE A Stable A Strong Low risk Strong Very Strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
AXA AA- Stable AA- Very strong Intermediate risk Excellent Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
CNP Assurances A Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Covea AA- Stable AA- Strong Intermediate risk Strong Very Strong (Excellent ) Excellent Moderately High (from Moderately low) Neutral Neutral 0
Germany
Allianz AA Stable AA Very strong Intermediate risk Excellent Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Alte Leipziger A Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
DEVK A+ Stable A+ Strong Low risk Strong Excellent Excellent Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Deutsche Rück A+ Stable A+ Strong Low risk Strong Very strong Excellent Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Gothaer Insurance A (from A-) Stable (from Positive ) A (from A-) Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Talanx A+ Stable A+ Strong Intermediate risk Strong Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
VHV A+ Stable A+ Strong Low risk Strong Excellent Excellent Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
VKB A Stable A- Strong Intermediate risk Strong Satisfactory Satisfactory Moderately low Neutral Neutral 1
Wuestenrot & Wuerttembergische A- Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Italy
Cattolica BBB C.W. positive (from Stable) BBB+ Strong Intermediate risk Strong Satisfactory Satisfactory Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Kuwait
Gulf Insurance A ( from A-) Stable (from Developing ) A (from A-) Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong (from Satisfactory) Very Strong ( from Strong) Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Netherlands
Achmea A Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Very strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
AEGON A+ Stable A+ Very strong Low risk Very strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
ASR Nederland A Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Very strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
NN A Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Nordics
Gjensidige A Positive (from Stable) A Strong Low risk Strong Very Strong (from Strong) Very Strong (from Strong) Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
KLP A- Stable A- Strong Intermediate risk Strong Strong ( from Satisfactory) Strong ( from Satisfactory) Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
If P&C Insurance A+ Stable A+ Very strong Low risk Very strong Satisfactory Strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Lansforsakringar Sak Forsakringsaktiebolag A Stable A Strong Low risk Strong Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Storebrand A- Stable A- Strong Intermediate risk Strong Satisfactory Strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Sampo A+ Positive ( from Stable) A+ Very strong Low risk Very strong Satisfactory Strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Saudi Arabia
Tawuniya/The Company for Cooperative Insurance BBB+ Stable BBB+ Strong Intermediate risk Strong Satisfactory Satisfactory Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
South Africa
Santam BB Stable BBB- Satisfactory Moderately high Strong Fair Fair Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Spain
Mapfre A+ Stable A+ Very strong Intermediate risk Very strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Switzerland
Baloise A+ Stable A+ Strong Low risk Strong Excellent Excellent Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Helvetia A+ (from A) Stable ( from Positive ) A+ (from A) Strong Low risk Strong Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Swiss Life A+ Stable A+ Strong Low risk Strong Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Zurich Insurance AA Stable AA Very strong Intermediate risk Excellent Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi National Insurance A Stable A Satisfactory Intermediate risk Satisfactory Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Oman Insurance A- Positive ( from Stable) A- Satisfactory Intermediate risk Satisfactory Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
U.K.
Aviva AA- Stable AA- Very strong Low risk Very strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Legal & General AA- Stable AA- Very strong Low risk Very strong Strong Strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Liverpool Victoria FS BBB+ Stable BBB+ Satisfactory Low risk Satisfactory Strong Excellent Moderately high Moderately negative Neutral 0
M&G plc A+ Stable A+ Strong Low risk Strong Very Strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
Royal London Mutual A Stable A Strong Low risk Strong Strong Very strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Poland
PZU A- Stable A- Strong Moderately high Very strong Strong Very strong Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Russia & Kazakhstan
Ingosstrakh BBB ( from BBB-) Stable ( from Positive ) BBB Satisfactory Moderately high Strong Satisfactory Very strong High Neutral Neutral 0 (from -1 )
Rosgosstrakh BB+ ( from BB) Stable ( from Positive ) BB+ Fair Moderately high Satisfactory Fair Satisfactory Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0 (from -1 )
Reso-Garantia BBB- Positive BBB- Satisfactory Moderately high Strong Fair Satisactory ( from Strong) Moderately high Neutral ( from Moderately negative) Neutral 0
Sogaz BBB Stable BBB Satisfactory Moderately high Strong Fair Satisfactory Moderately high Neutral Neutral 0
Eurasia BBB Stable BBB Satisfactory Moderately high Strong Satisfactory Very strong High Neutral Neutral 0
Slovenia
Triglav A Stable A Strong Intermediate risk Strong Very strong Very strong Moderately low Neutral Neutral 0
LC FSR--Local currency financial strength rating. SACP--Stand-alone credit profile. GCP--Group credit profile. BRP--Business risk profile. IICRA--Insurance industry and country risk profile. FRP--Financial risk profile. CRA--Comparable ratings analysis. Source: S&P Global Ratings.

Insurance Ratings Outlook Distribution In EMEA

Charts 2 and 3 show the outlooks on our insurer financial strength ratings in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa as of Oct. 28, 2021.

Looking at the breakdown of the outlooks, 83% were stable, 9% negative, 5% positive, and 2% were on CreditWatch. The high proportion of stable outlooks endures, and there has been a marginal decline in the number of negative outlooks over the past year. In October 2020, 11% of outlooks were negative, versus 12% in April 2021.

More than half of the negative outlooks relate to the poor operating performance of protection and indemnity clubs in Western Europe. We see a higher proportion of positive outlooks in Central and Eastern Europe. There has also been an increase in positive outlooks on companies in the Middle East and Africa, most of them reflecting improved earnings or positive developments in company-specific issues.

Chart 2

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Chart 3

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Selected Research

Date Research Article summary
Oct. 28, 2021 The Global Reinsurance Sector Outlook Remains Negative As Returns Fall Short The global reinsurance sector again won't earn its cost of capital in 2021 and could struggle to do so in 2022. This year could be the fifth consecutive year in which the top 21 global reinsurers deplete their annual natural catastrophe budgets, and these top reinsurers shoulder close to half of total COVID-19-related insured losses. However, the sector's capitalization remains robust with redundancy at the 'AA' confidence level, benefiting from capital raises and financial markets' recovery. We expect reinsurance pricing to strengthen in 2022 in response to 2021's elevated losses.
Oct. 27, 2021 IG Clubs' Pool Claims Could Force 10% Increases At 2022 Renewal Losses in 2021 at the 13 protection and indemnity (P&I) mutuals that make up the International Group (IG) could overtake the heavy losses of 2019 and 2020, forcing the clubs to seek the most significant general increases for 10 years. Turmoil in the global supply chain has opened up opportunities for many shipping companies, which could help the clubs achieve their aims when discussing the 2022 renewal with members. S&P Global Ratings has taken eight negative rating actions on the sector in the past 12 months; over half of the ratings in the sector now have a negative outlook, reflecting recent poor operating performance.
Oct. 27, 2021 Reinsurers' Use Of Insurance-Linked Securities Is Set To Increase Amid Rising Catastrophe Losses Reinsurers are increasingly relying on third-party capital to support their retrocession needs. In 2021, they ceded about 50% of their exposures at a 1-in-250 return period through collateralized instruments, such as insurance-linked securities (ILS). About 15% of total reinsurance capital is sourced through ILS issuances, while the share is increasing significantly within the retrocession market. We expect ILS to increase its market share over the next few years as innovative new issuances address new risks, such as cyber, climate change, and ESG.
Oct. 26, 2021 European Commission Proposes New Tools For Insurance Regulators In our opinion, the EC's proposed changes to the standard formula are largely in line with proposals made by the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). Therefore, they could affect life insurers that use the standard formula (see "EIOPA's Proposals Increase The Economic Sensitivity Of Solvency II, At A Cost To Some Life Insurers," published on April 22, 2021).
Sept. 30, 2021 S&P Global Ratings Top 40 Global Reinsurers And Reinsurers By Country: 2021 To bring you the 2021 edition of Global Reinsurance Highlights, S&P Global Ratings sought data on around 118 reinsurance organizations from over 33 countries. As in previous years, the data is based on survey responses from reinsurance organizations worldwide.
Sept. 23, 2021 Global Reinsurers Grapple With Climate Change Risks Reinsurers have increased their efforts to incorporate climate change in their decision-making process, particularly in risk management, exposure management, and pricing. However, this is still nascent across the industry, and many companies are facing difficulties in implementing climate change considerations robustly. Our scenario analysis suggests that reinsurers' estimates of their exposure to natural catastrophe risk--and therefore physical climate risk--could be underestimated by 33%-50%, which is 91% of the sector's buffer above the 'AA' capital requirement. While not our base case, this scenario illustrates significant potential for volatility in earnings and capital. Unmodelled risks and the inherent difficulties in attributing extreme events to climate change create the risk that climate change may not be fully reflected in catastrophe modelling, particularly in the short term. 71% of reinsurers responding to our survey consider climate change in their pricing assumptions, but only 35% include a specific component of the price allocated to climate change. This ranges from 0%-10% of the rate charged on average, and does not appear to be a significant determinant of market pricing. We consider exposure to the physical risks of climate change to be a key factor in our ratings on 19 of the top 21 rated reinsurers primarily through our forward-looking assessment of risk exposure. We believe that those companies that take a more proactive approach to understanding and adapting their exposure to climate risk will be better protected against future capital and earnings volatility linked to climate-related losses.
Oct. 21, 2021 IPB Insurance Assigned ESG Evaluation Of 73; Preparedness Adequate S&P Global Ratings assigned IPB Insurance an ESG Evaluation of 73. The company's ESG Evaluation is the result of an ESG profile of 70 combined with an adequate (+3) preparedness. Higher numbers indicate stronger sustainability in our evaluations. IPB Insurance's ESG Evaluation is the first public ESG Evaluation for the insurance sector in both Ireland and EMEA.
Oct. 14, 2021 Five Years Of Over-Budget Catastrophe Losses Test Global Reinsurers' Discipline 2021 is likely to be the fifth year in a row of natural catastrophe losses at or above budget expectations for the Top 21 global reinsurers, exacerbated by more than $20 billion of COVID-19-related insured losses in the past 18 months. Despite these elevated losses, the industry has demonstrated financial resilience--our analysis suggests that 13 of the Top 21 global reinsurers would maintain a buffer at their current S&P Global Ratings capital adequacy level, even after a 1-in-100-year natural catastrophe loss. Reinsurers' strategies, given the improving risk-adjusted pricing, have diverged, with some increasing their property catastrophe risk appetite and others maintaining a defensive stance.
Oct. 11, 2021 EMEA Insurers Ratings List: Financial Strength Ratings And Scores Here, S&P Global Ratings provides its long-term financial strength ratings (FSRs) and ratings scores for all the insurance companies where the main operations are within EMEA as of Sept. 30, 2021.
Oct. 11, 2021 Comparative Statistics: Global Marine Protection And Indemnity Clubs The P&I sector has struggled to post a technical profit in recent years, with a clear deterioration in operating performance. This was because of soft, yet improving, pricing conditions in the P&I sector, as well as an increase in the frequency of large claims. The poor track record is continuing in 2021, and despite an expected improvement in combined ratios from record highs, operating performance will remain weak overall. We expect net combined ratios to range between 107% and 110% over 2021-2022. Yet, despite the underwriting losses, P&I clubs have generally managed to post a positive return on members' funds in recent years thanks to investment returns.
Sept. 9, 2021 Dutch Insurers Remain On Sound Financial Footing Despite The Pandemic Dutch insurers have largely ridden out the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit with a hit to their investment income, and we expect economic recovery will support margins and investment results in 2021-2022. In 2020, Dutch life insurers' operating income remained neutral, property and casualty (P&C) insurers benefitted from fewer claims, and health insurers reported positive results thanks government support. Dutch insurance markets remain highly competitive and concentrated, and we believe new risks related to climate change and cyber security will result in significant regulatory and operational changes for insurers in 2021. Despite challenging conditions, the credit profiles of the four Dutch insurance groups we rate remain robust, supported by strong capitalization.
Aug. 26, 2021 Top 40 EMEA Insurers Remain Resilient To Lingering Pandemic Risks In 2020, COVID-19-related claims largely shaped insurers' profitability, with a few facing earnings pressure. However, given the relatively modest scale of the losses, as well as the mitigating actions taken by management teams, the pandemic was an earnings event for the insurance industry. On the investment side, most insurers hold highly rated liquid bonds. Higher capital requirement needs under Solvency II for high-risk assets--such as equity and real estate--discourage insurers in the European Economic Area from materially increasing their exposures in these asset classes. Volatile capital markets, low interest rates, and the potential downward migration of ratings on corporate bonds are key risks that the top 40 EMEA insurers could face this year. Despite disruption caused by the pandemic, the insurance sector was one of the most resilient in 2020, and we expect that to remain the case in 2021.
July 27, 2021 Islamic Insurers May Not Sustain Strong Profitability Throughout 2021 We expect our ratings on Islamic (Takaful) insurers in the GCC to be broadly stable in 2021. However, persisting risks related to asset volatility, underwriting losses, and company-specific governance, and control failures could lead to some negative rating actions. Very intense competition and the weak performance of some key sectors such as travel, hospitality, and retail will likely weigh on growth prospects and earnings this year. Weak profitability among some smaller companies will necessitate further capital-raising and consolidation in 2021, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where many companies in the sector continue to accumulate losses.
July 19, 2021 German P/C Insurers: Natural Catastrophe Risks Again Rise To The Fore German insurers face much higher natural catastrophe losses this year, with storms in June and July already resulting in about €1.7 billion in insured losses. Insured natural catastrophe losses for the whole of 2021 could reach 2013's high of more than €7 billion and if they exceed €15 billion, the gross combined ratio for the sector could rise to 109%. Even under those scenarios, we believe ratings for German insurers will remain stable based on their solid capital adequacy, reinsurance protection, and strong and improving underwriting property/casualty profitability. Because natural peril insurance is not a standard feature of home insurance in Germany, we believe rising awareness of this top-up cover might represent a business opportunity that will nevertheless test insurers' digital initiatives and customer service in 2021.
May 26, 2021 COVID-19 Took A $8 Billion Bite Out Of Global Multiline Insurers' Earnings The COVID-19 crisis cost the 16 global multiline insurers (GMIs) we rate about $8 billion in 2020 in aggregate, though it left them with sizable net income of $36 billion—representing an earnings event, not a capital event, for the industry. One-off items not directly related to COVID-19 actually reduced net income more, by $12 billion. Because GMIs started the pandemic with solid balance sheets and a good base of recurring profitability, we anticipate a recovery in earnings in 2021 and in coming years once vaccinations weaken the pandemic. GMIs involved in property/casualty (P/C) commercial lines were the hardest hit, with the losses posted by the three most exposed players accounting for more than half of the pandemic-related decline in net income for the 16 GMIs.

Webcasts: EMEA Insurance Insights
In the last quarter, we have held the following webcasts to share our views on EMEA Insurerance topics. The replays are available on https://www.spglobal.com/ratings/en/events/webcast-replays/index
Flooding in Europe and the global reinsurance sector Webinar Replay | Insurance In Focus: Update On Flooding In Europe And The Global Reinsurance Sector
Update on global multiline insurers Webinar Replay | Insurance In Focus: Global Multiline Insurers Update

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Primary Credit Analyst:Mark D Nicholson, London + 44 20 7176 7991;
mark.nicholson@spglobal.com
Secondary Contact:Ami M Shah, Mumbai (91) 22-4040-8340;
ami.shah@spglobal.com
Additional Contact:Insurance Ratings Europe;
insurance_interactive_europe@spglobal.com

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