The Hartford's Fitch Ratings Affirmed

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NU Online News Service, May 23, 3:57 p.m.EDT?Fitch Ratings said today it has affirmed all ratingson The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.

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Fitch's evaluation included an insurer financial strength ratingfor The Hartford Fire Intercompany Pool and fixed incomeratings.

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The action came, Fitch noted, after it observed the company's"successful" completion of its planned capital-raising effort.

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Earlier this week, the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer raised$1.95 billion from its capital offerings, $100 million more thanoriginally expected. These offerings were part of the company'splan to shore up its balance sheet after announcing an increase ofits asbestos reserves by $2.6 billion and posting a $1.7 billioncharge to first-quarter earnings.

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The New York-based ratings firm also added that it has removedall Hartford ratings from its "Rating Watch Negative" and hasassigned "Stable" for its rating outlook.

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Fitch had originally placed The Hartford's ratings on "RatingWatch" in January when the company announced it had started acomprehensive review of its asbestos liabilities. Fitch had notedthen that there were two "uncertainties" it was concernedabout--the size of The Hartford's asbestos charge and its relatedcapital-raising activities.

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But today, Fitch stated in its ratings report that "the asbestosstudy is thorough and capitalization remains sound, thus the?Rating Watch Negative' has been removed."

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The ratings firm also suggested that, following The Hartford'scapital raising activities, the company is now more stronglyreserved for asbestos exposure and is maintaining stablecapitalization at the holding company as well as in the insuranceoperating units.

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