A.M. Best Upgrades Issuer Credit Rating of Western Life Assurance Company; Affirms Financial Strength Rating

    OLDWICK, N.J., June 13 /CNW/ - A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial
strength rating (FSR) of B++ (Good) and upgraded the issuer credit rating
(ICR) to "bbb+" from "bbb" of Western Life Assurance Company (Western Life)
(High River, Alberta). The outlook for both ratings is stable.

    The ICR upgrade reflects Western Life's steadily increasing level of
premium production and earnings, as well as its sound capitalization.
Profitability in its core business lines has led to a very good risk-adjusted
capital level. The company's transition to its new ownership under Western
Financial Group Inc. presents increased business opportunities, and elevated
business production is expected from affiliated distribution going forward,
which is reflected in the upgraded ICR.

    Offsetting the positive rating factors are the challenges associated with
achieving greater market share in the Canadian arena due to competition in the
group and the individual accident and sickness market. Despite recent growth,
Western Life has yet to achieve meaningful economies of scale. In addition,
Western Life's parent's strategy of acquisitions has historically generated
considerable levels of leverage and intangibles.

    For Best's Ratings, an overview of the rating process and rating
methodologies, please visit www.ambest.com/ratings.

    Founded in 1899, A.M. Best Company is a full-service credit rating
organization dedicated to serving the financial services industries, including
the banking and insurance sectors. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

For further information:

For further information: A.M. Best Co. Analysts: Richard McMillan,
908-439-2200, ext. 5615 richard.mcmillan@ambest.com or Stephanie Guethlein
McElroy, 908-439-2200, ext. 5128 stephanie.mcelroy@ambest.com or Public
Relations: Jim Peavy, 908-439-2200, ext. 5644 james.peavy@ambest.com or
Rachelle Morrow, 908-439-2200, ext. 5378 rachelle.morrow@ambest.com

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