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Standard Life Aberdeen, Phoenix in £3.24B deal; forecast sends AA shares lower

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

Buyers and sellers

* Standard Life Aberdeen Plc will offload its insurance business on to Phoenix Group Holdings for £3.24 billion as it reported full-year 2017 profit attributable to equity holders of the company of £699 million, up from £368 million in 2016. Meanwhile, merger talks between the life insurance operations of Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Standard Life Aberdeen involving £300 billion AUM, were terminated in late-2017 due to a disagreement over the ownership structure of the new venture.

* London-based Clear Group Ltd. unit Clear Insurance Mgmt Ltd. acquired New Malden, U.K.-based commercial broker Robert Alexander Ltd., with the deal taking Clear's total premiums to more than £90 million.

* Bulgaria's Financial Supervision Commission allowed Lev Ins AD Insurance Company to increase its holding in Life Insurance Institute to 63.68% from 49.08% by merging the latter company with Health Insurance Institute.

* An Eli Global LLC affiliate will acquire Berlin-based online marketplace for the insurance sector, AG, and its subsidiaries from BlackFin Capital Partners and's founders for undisclosed terms.

* Housing Development Finance Corp. Ltd. is said to be in talks to acquire Apollo Munich Health Insurance Co. Ltd. HDFC is currently the only interested buyer, according to a report.

* Allianz Group intends to launch another cash tender offer for the remaining shares in Euler Hermes Group SA that it does not own.

Reinsurance deals

* A unit of Enstar Group Ltd. agreed to reinsure the New South Wales motor vehicle compulsory third-party insurance business of Zurich Insurance Group AG's Australian subsidiary.

* Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd. completed a transaction relating to the provision of capital with Hamilton Underwriting Ltd. The deal, which was made in conjunction with Axa DBIO to support the reinsurance to close of Lloyd's Syndicate - 3334 (Hamilton Underwriting Ltd.)'s 2014 and prior years of account, has an inception date of Jan. 1.

* Enstar Group Ltd.'s Lloyd's managing agency, StarStone Underwriting Ltd., concluded its planned reinsurance-to-close transaction with Neon Underwriting Ltd.

New appointments

* Cassa depositi e prestiti SpA unit SACE SpA named Dario Liguti chief underwriting and business innovation officer, effective March 15. Liguti replaces Alessandra Ricci, who moved to become CEO of CDP unit SIMEST SpA in October 2017.

* Financial services and travel group Saga Plc appointed Patrick O'Sullivan chairman, effective May 1.

Profit increases

* Axa reported a 7% year-over-year increase in full-year 2017 profit, with net income totaling €6.21 billion, compared to the restated €5.83 billion in 2016. The company, meanwhile, agreed to sell all of its insurance operations in Azerbaijan to Elkhan Garibli, who will acquire 100% of the French insurer's nonlife unit AXA MBask Insurance Co. OJSC as part of the deal.

* U.K.'s RSA Insurance Group Plc proposed a final dividend for 2017 of 13.0 pence per share as its full-year 2017 net attributable profit rose year-over-year to £289 million from £27 million, driven by higher underwriting profits in Scandinavia and Canada.

* CNP Assurances SA reported full-year 2017 net profit attributable to owners of the parent of €1.29 billion, up from €1.20 billion a year ago. The French insurer aims to achieve an organic growth of at least 5% in earnings before interest and taxes in 2018.

* ASR Nederland NV's full-year 2017 consolidated profit attributable to shareholders of the parent company increased to €872 million from from the restated €625 million earned in 2016.

* Ageas SA/NV booked fourth-quarter 2017 net profit attributable to shareholders of €263.5 million, compared to a loss of €90.7 million for the same period in 2016.

Other financial figures

* France-based Scor SE's fourth-quarter 2017 consolidated net income group share was €261 million, up 58.2% from the year-ago €165 million, but full-year 2017 net income declined year over year to €286 million from €603 million earned in 2016.

* Swiss Re AG reported full-year 2017 net income attributable to common shareholders of $331 million, compared to $3.56 billion earned in 2016. The estimated insurance claims from a series of natural catastrophes in 2017 amounted to $4.7 billion.

* Generali will increase investment in green sectors by €3.5 billion by 2020, mainly through green bonds and green infrastructures. Simultaneously, the Italian insurer will divest its current exposure to the coal sector, equivalent to about €2 billion.

* U.K.-based motor insurer AA PLC expects to post trading earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of between £335 million and £345 million for the 2019 financial year.

In other news

* The Southwark Crown Court in London acquitted Hiscox Ltd. of violating data protection laws in relation to its handling of a client claim over a luxury watch. The Information Commissioner's Office, which brought the case forward, reportedly told the court that it would not seek a retrial and offered no evidence.

* Swiss Re AG completed its share repurchase program of up to CHF1 billion on Feb. 16, as part of the reinsurer's objective to return capital to its shareholders.

* Norwegian couple Tor Olav Trøim and Celina Midelfart sold their 13 million shares in Storebrand ASA, generating proceeds of 886 million kroner.

* The Central Bank of Ireland ordered CBL Insurance Europe dac, a unit of New Zealand-based CBL Corp. Ltd., to stop writing business, effective immediately.

Featured during the week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

* RSA expects UK business to bounce back after 'disappointing' 2017: RSA UK and International CEO said the U.K. business, the only unit to suffer underwriting losses in 2017, should be able to hit a sub-94% combined ratio in two to three years.

* Axa to use proceeds from US IPO to boost position in health, P&C: Axa's U.S. IPO will free up funds to boost its position in health, property & casualty and protection, and the company is seeking to invest selectively in the U.S. healthcare market, its CEO said.

* Scor's US tax-reform charge could cut solvency ratio by 7 points, says CFO: Scor SE may have to take a charge of up to $350 million in 2018 to account for U.S. tax reforms, but CFO Mark Kociancic said the charge is "very digestable" for the group.

* Ageas hoping for end to investor battle after 'roller-coaster' 2017: CEO: The insurer expects the Amsterdam Court of Appeal to make a decision on its latest settlement offer to shareholders "before the summer," said CEO Bart De Smet.

* Cryptocurrency hack could expose cyber insurance gaps: A hack designed to force computers to mine cryptocurrency serves as a reminder that there is more to cyber attacks than data breaches and malware.