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Axa US IPO prices below range; Hannover Re, HDI Global form JV; Q1 earnings

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Axa US IPO prices below range; Hannover Re, HDI Global form JV; Q1 earnings

S&P Global Market Intelligence offers our top picks of insurance news stories and more published throughout the week.

Axa prices US IPO

* Axa raised approximately $2.75 billion from the IPO of Axa Equitable Holdings Inc., with shares in its U.S. unit priced at $20 apiece, well below the expected range of $24 to $27 per share.

Q1 financial results out

* Unipol Gruppo SpA reported first-quarter consolidated net profit of €472 million, up from €157 million in the same period in 2017.

* Talanx AG reported group net income after noncontrolling interests of €218 million for the first quarter, down from €238 million in the year-ago period. The German insurer continues to expect group net income of approximately €850 million for 2018.

* Zurich Insurance Group AG recorded first-quarter property and casualty gross written premiums of $9.33 billion, up 5% in U.S. dollar terms from $8.92 billion in the year-ago period. P&C gross written premiums in Europe, the Middle East and Africa totaled $5.33 billion, an increase from $4.88 billion a year earlier.

* Finnish insurer Sampo Oyj revealed first-quarter group profit attributable to owners of the parent of €348 million under International Financial Reporting Standards, down from the year-ago €378 million.

* Munich Re Co. reported first-quarter consolidated result attributable to equity holders of €826 million, up from €554 million in the year-ago period and in line with expectations.

* Swiss Life Holding AG reported unaudited IFRS first-quarter fee income of CHF395 million, up 16% from CHF340 million in the year-ago period. Gross written premiums, policy fees and deposits received amounted to CHF6.99 billion, up from CHF6.54 billion.

* Germany's Hannover Re reported first-quarter group net income of €273.4 million, up from the restated €264.8 million in the same period in 2017.

Deal chatter

* J.C. Flowers & Co. LLC is in advanced talks to buy into independent insurance brokers SSL Insurance Brokers Ltd. and Endeavour Insurance Services Ltd. The U.S. private equity company plans to consolidate the two U.K. brokers into one new entity, with SSL CEO Andrew Sturdy and Endeavour Chairman Chris Giles set to become co-chairmen.

* Allianz Group CEO Oliver Bäte reportedly said the German insurer would be open to a "merger of equals" with another major insurer but has not yet found a suitable asset to "plow a lot of money into." Bäte neither confirmed nor denied market speculation that Allianz is considering acquiring Zurich Insurance Group.

Reinsurance transactions

* U.S.-based Prudential Financial Inc. unit Prudential Retirement and U.K.-based Pension Insurance Corp. Plc signed their sixth longevity reinsurance transaction since 2015. Prudential Insurance Co. of America will assume the longevity risk for about $1.2 billion in pension liabilities, representing approximately 7,500 pensioners across two pension schemes.

* Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. completed the reinsurance arrangements with Zurich Insurance Group after receiving about A$1 billion of reinsurance proceeds as part of a deal to sell the former's Australia-based life insurance business, OnePath Life Ltd.

In other news

* Hannover Re and HDI Global SE will merge their specialty activities in a new joint venture, HDI Global Specialty SE, which will operate under Talanx and will be launched with a premium volume of more than €1 billion.

* Aon Plc named Richard Schuyler CEO of Aon Carrier Link, a new distribution channel linking participants to its network of local offices.

* Standard Life Aberdeen PLC announced it is in dispute resolution talks with Lloyds Banking Group PLC and unit Scottish Widows Group Ltd. regarding the termination of long-term asset management arrangements between the three parties.

* Japan's Tokio Marine Holdings Inc. secured Japanese and Luxembourg regulatory approval to set up an insurance unit in Luxembourg. The unit, Tokio Marine Europe SA, is expected to become operational by the second half.

* Making acquisitions is "a tool of low priority" for RSA Insurance Group PLC despite chatter in the market about potential deals, its CEO said. Meanwhile, weather-related claims costs at the U.K.-based company were equivalent to 5.1% of net earned premiums in the first quarter, compared with 2% a year earlier and a five-year average of 3.2%.

Featured during the week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

Aviva vows to factor in preference share debacle when setting director pay: Shareholders at the insurer's annual general meeting levied a barrage of criticism and called for executives and directors to forfeit bonuses over the recent preference shares misstep.

D&O underwriters pressured by securities-related lawsuits, misconduct scandals: A spike in merger-related lawsuits and a wave of sexual misconduct scandals that have toppled big names across multiple industries has hit D&O underwriters. While insurers were initially slow to respond, pricing is finally on the rise.

Munich Re's new digital push could increase motor insurance exposure: CFO Jörg Schneider told analysts that subsidiary ERGO's new digital unit will boost the group exposure to "difficult" motor insurance, but that the business line is "promising and necessary."

Hannover Re sees renewals upside as US property market improves: The German reinsurer raised its 2018 guidance on the back of premium growth, positive April renewals and an improving return on investment target.