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S&P warns European insurers on credit rating

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 11, 2011 - 21:37

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A pedestrian passes an Axa SA branch in Paris. (Bloomberg) A pedestrian passes an Axa SA branch in Paris. (Bloomberg)
WASHINGTON (AFP) ― Standard & Poor’s on Friday warned a swathe of European insurers that they could face a credit downgrade as a result of the continent’s fiscal crisis.

Allianz, Aviva, Axa, Generali and Mapfre were among 15 firms warned by the U.S.-based ratings agency.

S&P said the “creditwatch” was related to an earlier warning on the ratings of 15 of the 17 countries of the eurozone.

S&P’s warning on Monday threatened a one-notch cut to the hallowed “AAA” ratings of Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg and Austria.

France, also “AAA”-rated and the eurozone’s second-largest economy, could be hit with a two-notch cut, as could the other countries currently rated below “AAA.”

S&P said it would complete a review of the 15 countries’ ratings “as soon as possible” following the EU summit.

It warned Tuesday that the eurozone’s 440-billion-euro EFSF bailout fund, which depends on the triple-A ratings of six eurozone countries, also risks losing its top rating.

For insurers, the firm pointed to market turmoil and poor capital trends.

“Our more-recent negative adjustments to Europe’s economic growth prospects and the potentially heightened credit risk ... only serve to compound the difficulties that insurers face.”