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UK FCA to review Aviva's preference share plan; Bâloise profits rise 2.5% YOY


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UK FCA to review Aviva's preference share plan; Bâloise profits rise 2.5% YOY

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

Brexit breather

* The U.K. Prudential Regulation Authority announced that it had raised the liabilities threshold to allow non-U.K. insurers to establish branches without them needing a financial services passport after Brexit to £500 million, making it easier for insurers to meet the requirement to set up a branch rather than a full-blown subsidiary.

Aviva's troubled preference

* U.K. Financial Conduct Authority CEO Andrew Bailey said the regulator is undertaking a review to establish whether it needs to formally investigate Aviva PLC over the company's controversial proposal to cancel preference shares. Responding to a letter by U.K. Treasury Select Committee Chair Nicky Morgan, Bailey said the primary focus of the regulator's inquiries is whether market abuse rules were breached.

Reading the bottom line

* Germany-based Wüstenrot & Württembergische AG reported full-year 2017 consolidated net profit of €258.0 million under International Financial Reporting Standards, up 9.6% from €235.3 million a year earlier. EPS amounted to €2.74, up from €2.49 in 2016. The German company noted that it is planning to invest about €820 million in digital products and processes between 2018 and 2020.

* Swiss insurer Bâloise Holding AG reported consolidated full-year 2017 profit attributable to shareholders of CHF548.0 million, up 2.5% from CHF534.8 million in the prior-year period. The company said it will propose to its April 27 annual general meeting to increase the dividend for 2017 to CHF5.60 per share from CHF5.20 per share for 2016.

On the deal table

* Zurich Insurance Group AG unit Zurich U.K. agreed to acquire Chipping Norton, U.K.-based Oak Underwriting PLC from RSA Insurance Group PLC. About 80 employees are expected to move to Zurich as part of the deal, which is expected to finalize in the second quarter, subject to legal and regulatory approvals. Oak Underwriting's office in Chipping Norton will remain in place and the company will become part of Zurich's existing high-net-worth business, Zurich Private Clients.

* Bermuda-based specialty provider of property and casualty insurance as well as reinsurance Sompo International completed the acquisition of Peschiera Borromeo, Italy-based agriculture insurance specialty company A&A Srl. Giovanni Giudici, chairman and managing director, and Guido Passarini, chief administrative officer, will continue to manage A&A's staff and operations. John Charman, Sompo International CEO and chairman; Kristopher Lynn and Avery Cook, senior vice presidents of agriculture reinsurance; and Patrizio Cassinis, senior vice president and senior underwriter of reinsurance, have joined A&A's board.

In other news

* Jonathan Hill, CFO of U.K. financial services group Saga PLC, is stepping down to take up the same post with Irish casinos and gaming company Paddy Power Betfair PLC in the autumn, replacing CFO Alex Gersh. Hill will remain at Saga until September, with the search for his successor beginning immediately.

* The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority said it is considering banning certain charges for pension transfers, as it published new rules on transfer advice to help consumers make informed decisions for their individual circumstances.

* Insurance industry blockchain consortium B3i incorporated a new company, Zurich-based B3iServices AG. Swiss Re AG reinsurance CFO Gerhard Lohman was named chairman of the new entity. The incorporation marks B3i's transformation into a company from a consortium, Lohman said. Other members of the consortium include Ageas SA/NV, Achmea BV, Aegon NV, Allianz Group, Hannover Re, Liberty Mutual, Munich Re Co., Reinsurance Group of America Inc., Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc., Scor SE, Tokio Marine Holdings Inc., XL Group Ltd, Zurich Insurance Group AG and Generali.

Featured during the week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

Swiss Re files to take control of Mapfre US life unit: Units of Swiss Re AG filed an application with the Delaware Department of Insurance to take control of a U.S. life insurance subsidiary of Mapfre SA.

H2'17 results reveal wide variance in big 4 reinsurers' catastrophe hits: Swiss Re's combined ratio suffered the most at the hands of last year's swath of natural catastrophes, Hannover Re's the least.