S&P Revises USI Outlook to Positive

NU Online News Service, Feb. 24, 2:59 p.m. EST

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised its outlook for insurance broker USI Holdings Corp. from stable to positive while affirming the firm’s counterparty credit rating of “B-.”

In a statement, Julie Herman, S&P’s credit analyst says, “The outlook revision to positive is based on our expectation that USI is in a position to display tangible organic revenue improvements and earnings momentum over the coming year.

“We believe this improvement will stem from a combination of realized benefits from structural improvements in the company's sales tactics and operational platforms that the company has undertaken over the past three years as well as stabilized rates and exposures in both the company’s property and casualty and employee benefits markets,” she says.

Herman says the company began showing improvement last year and reversed its negative organic growth to flat for the first time since 2007. The reasons for the improvement were “partly because of favorable new business and retention trends.”

Organic growth is expected to be in the low single digits for 2012 as a result of internal business improvements and the changing direction of premium pricing in the insurance market place, S&P says.

USI is also expected to see margin improvements as it “continues to focus on synergies and expense savings,” according to S&P.

S&P went on to say that it would consider raising USI’s rating over the next 12 months so long as it continues to display financial improvements.

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