NU Online News Service, Jan. 9, 2004, 4:20 p.m. EST – Fitch Ratings, Chicago, has increased the insurer financial strength rating of Hartford Life Group Insurance to AA, from A.[@@]

Hartford Life Group Insurance is the new name for the old group benefits business of CNA Financial Corp., Chicago. CNA recently completed selling the business to Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford.

Fitch says it raised the group insurance unit’s rating because it believes the unit now is a core member of Hartford’s life insurance operations and should have the same rating as other major Hartford life subsidiaries.

The addition of the CNA group business should help improve profits at the Hartford life operations and make the sources of the life operations’ profits more diverse, Fitch says.

Hartford issued commercial paper to borrow some of the cash it used to finance the acquisition, but Hartford probably will replace three-quarters of the new debt by issuing common stock sometime in the next few months, Fitch says