AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Halyk-Life, JSC

15 February 2021 — Daniela GHETU
AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating of B+ (Good) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating of "bbb-" of Halyk-Life, Life Insurance Subsidiary Company of the Halyk Bank of Kazakhstan, JSC (Halyk-Life) (Kazakhstan).

Halyk-Life is a wholly owned subsidiary of JSC Halyk Bank, a leading retail bank in Kazakhstan. The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) is positive.

The ratings reflect Halyk-Life's balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorises as very strong, as well as its adequate operating performance, limited business profile and marginal enterprise risk management.

The positive outlooks reflect improvements in Halyk-Life's operating performance metrics observed in recent years.

Halyk-Life's balance sheet strength is underpinned by its risk-adjusted capitalisation that is categorised as strongest, as measured by Best's Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR), based on unaudited 2020 year-end regulatory returns. AM Best expects the company's prospective BCAR to remain at the strongest level, helped by solid operating results and a dividend policy that allows for sufficient earnings retention to support its growth plans. Halyk-Life's investment portfolio is relatively conservative by asset class, with fixed-income securities, cash and bank deposits accounting for over 90% of its investments as at year-end 2020. A partially offsetting factor is the sizeable asset-liability duration mismatch maintained by the company, which could affect its balance sheet strength over the longer term. The ratings also factor in Halyk-Life's exposure to the high levels of economic, political and financial system risk associated with operating predominantly in Kazakhstan.

Halyk-Life has reported improved operating performance in recent years, supported by economies of scale that followed the merger in 2018 of sister insurer, Kazkommerts Life Insurance Company, JSC, and good investment returns, although the latter should be viewed in the context of the high inflationary environment in Kazakhstan. In 2020, the company reported a return on equity of approximately 37% (2019: approximately 33%). AM Best expects Halyk-Life to build a track record of strong operating profitability prospectively, underpinned by the growth of its life insurance book and the actions taken to control its operating expenses. Nonetheless, future results could be challenged by the intense competition in the Kazakh life insurance market and the high regulatory risk in the country.

Halyk-Life is a leading insurer in Kazakhstan's life insurance market, with an estimated market share of 29%, based on 2020 gross written premium. However, Halyk-Life's operations are limited to its domestic insurance market, which is small by international standards. In addition, the company remains highly dependent on third-party distribution channels, especially for its credit life business.

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