NU Online News Service, Aug. 27, 2004, 4:52 p.m. EDT

A major German rating agency says 5 U.S. life settlement companies seem to have excellent risk profiles.[@@]

The rating agency, the Scope Group, Berlin, developed the rating for German closed-end investment funds that invest in U.S. viatical and life settlement assets. Scope reports that it believes it is the only major rating agency that has evaluated the quality of the assets.

The German funds now have more than $650 million invested in life settlement assets, up from $80 million in 2002, Scope says.

The U.S. life settlement market is still a new, emerging market, and none of the companies in the market have a long track record, but the companies that focus on acquiring portfolios for institutional investors seem to be stronger than companies that work directly with private investors as well as institutional investors, Scope says.

Scope assigned ratings of AA or higher to Coventry First L.L.C., Fort Washington, Pa.; Life Settlement Solutions Inc., San Diego; Peachtree Life Settlements Norcross, Ga.; and Legacy Benefits Corp., New York.

Scope also assigned an AA rating to a German life settlement company, Cash.Life A.G., Munich.