May 17, 2006
Fitch Ratings has today assigned to UK-based Stewart Title Limited ("STL") an Insurer Financial Strength ("IFS") rating of 'A' with Stable Outlook. The company is wholly owned by its US parent Stewart Title Guaranty Company ("STG"), rated IFS 'A+' with Stable Outlook.
The rating reflects STL's strong profitability, solid growth in revenues and excellent capitalisation that is underlined by a strong support agreement with STG. Other positive rating factors are low-risk investments with superior liquidity and an experienced senior management team. Moreover, the company benefits from parental support, e.g. management, risk management and reporting, IT systems and common branding. Partly offsetting factors are the company's relatively small size, and the risks associated with the need to adjust its expense base in response to a down cycle in the real estate market.
Fitch expects STL to maintain its strong growth and profitability as well as its excellent capitalisation. Fitch considers that STL will continue to grow internationally and will be likely to benefit from new Home Information Packs (HIP) in the UK from 2007 onwards. Under the new Housing Act, from 2007 home-owners will be required to have HIPs when marketing homes for sale.
The company operates very successfully in its niche market, by selling local search indemnity policies, conveyancing indemnity policies and defective title policies to law firms, lenders, packagers, brokers and property developers. STL covers risks mainly in the UK but also has operations in Eastern Europe (Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic) and maintains an Australian branch. The company had gross written premiums of GBP7 million and total assets of GBP18.5m at end-2005.STG is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Stewart Information Service Corporation (SISCO) a New York Stock Exchange traded holding company, with total assets and shareholders' equity of USD 1.4 billion and USD 766 million, respectively, at 31 December 2005. The principal US insurance operating entities of SISCO are rated IFS 'A+'.