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Willis buys French broker; Aegon unit settles suit; Munich Re approves buyback

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

Deal corner

* The completion of a merger between Russia-based JSC Sogaz and VTB Bank (PJSC) unit VTB Insurance Ltd. has been delayed, and no documents have been signed as yet.

* Willis Towers Watson PLC bought French insurance broker Dero solutions en assurance. It will now operate under the brand of Gras Savoye Willis Towers Watson France. Dero Courtage CEO Christophe Dero will be the managing director of the new business unit.

* The Coffey Group of companies in Ireland agreed to sell Western Captive Insurance Co. DAC to Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd., subject to the Central Bank of Ireland's approval.

* Toscafund Asset Management LLP agreed to offload 47.4 million shares in Esure Group PLC to several purchasers.

* The boards of Vittoria Capital and Vittoria Assicurazioni SpA approved the two companies' merger by incorporation.

* Scottish insurance broker Bruce Stevenson purchased Turriff-based Youngson Insurance Consultants.

Other contracts

* Schroders PLC is set to beat BlackRock Inc. in the race for the mandate of Lloyds Banking Group PLC's £109 billion asset portfolio after it reportedly offered the British bank a stake in unit Cazenove Capital Management Ltd. to sweeten its offer.

* FBD Holdings PLC unit FBD Insurance plc agreed to buy and cancel €70 million of 7% convertible notes currently held by certain affiliates of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. for about €86 million in cash.

Crimes

* Dutch insurer Aegon NV's Transamerica unit will pay $195 million to settle a lawsuit that took issues with certain monthly deduction rate adjustments on universal life insurance policies in the U.S.

* The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office fined Bupa Insurance Services Ltd £175,000 for lax monitoring of customer privacy, following the breach of 547,000 Bupa Global customers' details and their being offered for sale on the dark web.

* Rosgosstrakh Insurance Co. (PJSC) raised the value of claims under a trademark lawsuit launched against insurer Capital Life, formerly LLC Insurance Co. Rosgosstrakh - Life, by more than 32 billion Russian rubles to 148.8 billion rubles.

Business expansion

* Agile Risk Partners Ltd., an underwriter of direct, facultative property risks, was launched by Richard Foster, former head of global property at Brit Insurance, and James Poole.

* The owners of Alfa Group will open a new online insurance company in Russia and have already invested several million dollars into the startup, called Mango.

* Starr Insurance Cos. established a new office in Oslo, Norway, on Oct. 1 to expand its European presence.

Moves

* Just Group PLC CFO Simon Thomas will resign as an executive director, effective Oct. 31. The search for a permanent successor is underway.

* Prudential PLC appointed Mike Evans chairman of M&G Prudential, effective Oct. 1. The appointment is the latest step in the planned demerger of M&G Prudential from Prudential.

* Brit Ltd. executive chairman Mark Cloutier will step down in December to become chairman and CEO of Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd.

* U.K.-based insurance company Ascent Underwriting LLP appointed Caspar Stops head of cyber, effective at the end of November.

* Chubb Ltd. named Jane Anderson environmental manager for the U.K. and Ireland, effective Sept. 28.

In other news

* Wiltshire Council in southwestern England is scrutinizing how insurers treat claims from the poisonings in the towns of Salisbury and Amesbury to ensure that "every insurance company responds appropriately."

* The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority said it will launch a market study on how general insurance companies charge their customers for home and motor insurance. The moves comes after a charitable organization filed a complaint on behalf of consumers to end the issue of long-standing customers being charged more for some financial products than new customers.

* U.K. reinsurer Flood Re Ltd plans to cut the cost of reinsurance premiums charged to insurers by 12.5% for buildings and 33% for contents in relation to policies for areas prone to flooding.The change in premium charge will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

* The U.K. Financial Services Compensation Scheme transferred the eligible customers of the bankrupt Denmark-based Alpha Insurance A/S to insurer Markerstudy. The announcement comes a few months after the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority ordered Alpha Insurance to cease all underwriting as the insurer was placed into solvent liquidation.

* Munich Re Co.'s board authorized the buyback of up to 11 million of the company's shares for a maximum total purchase price of €1 billion. The repurchase will be conducted via the stock exchange in the period between April 26 and the annual general meeting to be held April 30, 2019.

Featured during the week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

Prominent Brexit backer's insurer passing about 70% of business to new MGA: Gibraltar-based Southern Rock, owned by Arron Banks, has cut back on the risk it retains as it aims to boost its solvency margin to between 125% and 150% from 117%.

UK National Crime Agency asks for insurers' help with 'wicked' economic crime: A director with the crime-fighting body outlined three areas in which the insurance industry can collaborate through the agency's new National Economic Crime Centre.

UK reforms will spark 'open season' for fraudulent insurance claims, says lawyer: Carpenters Group's Donna Scully argued that removing lawyers from lower-value claims will boost spurious claims, but Axa's David Williams insisted that the reforms will cut fraud.

QBE exec: Catastrophes may dampen capital markets' appetite for insurance risk: After heavy losses in 2017, a second consecutive costly year could 'put some people off,' says QBE Re Chief Underwriting Officer Jonathan Parry.