GCR assigns LASACO an initial financial strength rating; Outlook Stable

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Lasaco Assurance appoints 2 Non-Executive Directors, Aderinola Disu Resigns

GCR Ratings (GCR) has assigned an initial national scale financial strength rating of A-(NG) to Lasaco Assurance Plc, with a Stable Outlook.

Ratings History – Lasaco Assurance Plc

Rating class Review Rating scale Rating class Outlook Date
Financial Strength Initial/ last National A-(NG) Stable August 2021

Rating Rationale

The rating accorded to Lasaco Assurance Plc (“Lasaco”, “the insurer”) reflects the insurer’s moderately strong financial position, which partly offsets its limited competitive position in the highly fragmented Nigeria insurance industry.

Lasaco’s competitive profile somewhat constrains the rating. Lasaco is a mid-tier composite player within the Nigerian Insurance industry, with a track record of over four decades. The insurer controls an estimated market share and relative market share of 2.2% and 1.2x respectively as of FY20 based on total gross written premiums (GWP) of the industry.

The premium base is somewhat concentrated, with group life business dominating the premium mix over the review period with a 60% contribution. This is somewhat offset by a diversified portfolio in the short-term business, with four lines of business contributing over 10% to the gross premium base.

Lasaco Assurance appoints 2 Non-Executive Directors, Aderinola Disu Resigns

Going forward, the insurer’s competitive position is expected to be maintained within the same range, supported by entrenched market relationships with intermediaries and policyholders.

Earnings are at an intermediate level, with net profit supported by market-sensitive income. In this regard, profitability in FY20 is underpinned by investment income and the highly volatile foreign exchange (FX) gains. Characterised by the low yield environment in 2020, largely due to the pandemic, investment income declined notably by 24.2% year on year (YoY) in FY20.

This, coupled with an increase in net claims during the year, resulted in moderation in operating margin. Looking ahead, given the strategic plans put in place, we expect planned premium growth to improve portfolio quality and support the volatile investment income, which in turn should result in earnings stability.

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Lasaco’s capital adequacy is a positive rating factor. Though a slight 2.2% YoY decline in the capital was reported at FY20 due to revaluation losses, capitalisation metrics remained strong. Both the international solvency and GCR capital adequacy ratio (“CAR”) were maintained well above 100% and 2.5x respectively over the review period, evidencing good loss-absorbing capacity.

The insurer plans to increase its shareholders’ funds by about N10bn over the medium term to enable participation in big policies, support business growth, and better position the insurer. This could be supportive to the rating should it be successfully implemented, with evidence of good capital management structures.

Liquidity is assessed within a relatively low range, given the fact that investment properties constitute about 22.5% of the investment portfolio at FY20 (FY19: 26%). That said, cash and stressed assets coverage of net technical liabilities registered a moderation to 1.3x at FY20 (FY19: 1.7x) due to cash absorption by reinsurance receivables.

Similarly, operational cash coverage moderated to 10 months (FY19: 13.5 months), pressured by a spike in net claims incurred. Liquidity metrics are expected to improve over the near term based on the planned capital injection.

Outlook Statement

The Stable Outlook reflects our expectation that Lasaco will defend its competitive position as it deepens its relationship with the Lagos State, being the major shareholder. GCR expects the planned capital raise to improve the liquidity position over the next 12-18 months, while investment properties generate healthy returns for the insurer.

We expect planned premium growth to improve portfolio quality and support the volatile investment income, which in turn should result in earnings stability.