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Oldest UK mutual assurer Equitable Life sold; Allianz on hunt for acquisitions

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

Across the industry

* Europe should have an international unemployment insurance system to help eurozone economies withstand future crises, Reuters reported, citing comments by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz in Der Spiegel.

* The German government is considering changing rules that require life insurance companies in the country to set aside additional reserves for long-term guaranteed policies, Handelsblatt reported.

On the deal table

* London-based Life Company Consolidation Group has agreed to acquire Equitable Life Assurance Society, the oldest mutual life assurance company in the U.K. Equitable Life and all of its business will be transferred to Reliance Life Ltd., a U.K. run-off manager established by LCCG. The deal has a price tag of £1.8 billion, according to the Financial Times.

* National Bank of Greece SA received a binding offer from Shanghai-based investment group Gongbao for a majority stake in its wholly owned insurance unit Ethniki Hellenic General Insurance SA, Reuters reported. Gongbao has offered more than €650 million for a 75% stake in Ethniki Insurance, while fellow Chinese company Fosun Investment has pulled out of the race, insiders told ekathimerini.com.

* Allianz Group is looking to make acquisitions and has considered buying insurance companies in the U.S., Europe, Bermuda and Asia, insiders told Bloomberg News. The German financial services behemoth has reportedly included Zurich Insurance Group AG, RSA Insurance Group PLC, Aviva PLC, The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., QBE Insurance Group Ltd., Argo Group International Holdings Ltd. and Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd. among its list of possible targets.

* The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the emirate's sovereign wealth fund, entered exclusive talks to acquire U.S. private equity firm J.C. Flowers & Co. LLC's 21.4% stake in U.K.-based pension buyout company Pension Insurance Corp. PLC, Sky News reported. The deal, which would value the British company at roughly £3 billion, is expected to cost around £650 million and lead to a stock market listing in the coming years.

* U.S.-based insurance brokerage and risk management services company Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. acquired a majority interest in Zurich-based Hesse & Partner AG and Hesse Consulting GmbH. Hesse is a commercial property/casualty broker and consultant.

Management moves

* Legal & General Group PLC will begin the search for Mark Zinkula's replacement as CEO of Legal & General Investment Management Ltd. at the end of summer when it will hire an external headhunter, insiders told the Financial Times. However, internal candidates have emerged including LGIM's head of distribution for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and executive committee member Sarah Aitken, and head of defined contribution solutions Emma Douglas, who are said to be two of the strongest candidates tipped to succeed Zinkula when he retires Aug. 31, 2019.

* Thomas Bischof has replaced Norbert Heinen as chairman of the executive board for Württembergische Versicherung AG and Württembergische Lebensversicherung AG, DGAP.de reported.

* Brit Ltd. appointed Michael Gould COO.

In other news

* The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority concluded its probe into Scottish Widows' treatment of long-standing customers, saying there is insufficient basis for taking any enforcement action. The regulator launched an investigation in 2016 into six life insurance companies, including Scottish Widow, after a thematic review showed that insurers may have failed to inform customers about certain changes. The regulator's investigations into Prudential PLC, Countrywide Assured PLC, Old Mutual PLC and Abbey Life Assurance Co. Ltd. are ongoing.

* French insurer Axa and Dutch bank ING Groep NV entered into a bancassurance partnership. Axa will provide property and casualty, health and protection insurance services to ING customers in France, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria and Australia.

* Legal & General Investment Management said it will vote to dislodge eight global companies' board chairmen who have not responded to climate change threats, Reuters reported. The Legal and General Group unit also said it plans to dispose of its shares in the companies owned via its £5 billion Future World Funds index funds range.

Featured during the week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

Report: Insurance market Lloyd's threatens unprofitable syndicates with closure: Syndicates operating at the U.K. insurance market that have been unprofitable for three years will have to submit a plan to reach profitability or face possible closure, the Insurance Insider reported.

Broker: Silent cyberrisk 'a top concern' for insurers' boards: Uncertainty about whether cyber losses would be covered under traditional lines of business is creating "ambiguity for the insured, and unknown exposure for the insurer," reinsurance broker Capsicum Re said in a report.

Rethink urged after insurers' 'indefensible' Salisbury poisoning response: Business interruption losses stemming from the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in a U.K. city are unlikely to be covered by insurance, prompting calls for a fresh approach.