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EIOPA to cut ultimate forward rate; Old Mutual exiting Chinese JV

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

Cutting down

* The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority proposed to cut the ultimate forward rate, which is used to discount an insurer's liabilities, to 3.65% from the current 4.2%. The rate will first decrease to 4.05% in January 2018, with further annual rate changes of no more than 15 basis points.

* NL Financial Investments sold a 13.3% stake in ASR Nederland NV for total aggregate proceeds of €515 million, reducing the Dutch government's stake in the insurer to 36.8% from 50.1%.

* Banca Popolare di Vicenza SpA reduced its shareholding in Società Cattolica di Assicurazione - SC to 9.05% after selling an approximately 6.02% stake in the insurer for a total of about €76.1 million. Separately, Cattolica Assicurazioni exercised its put option on its insurance joint ventures with Popolare di Vicenza. The insurer will sell to the bank its 60% stakes in Cattolica Life Ltd., Berica Vita SpA and ABC Assicura SpA.

Beyond borders

* Lloyd's of London officially started operations in India, with MS Amlin Plc as the first syndicate to join the branch and begin underwriting. The reinsurance branch, which operates under the name Lloyd's India, will focus on infrastructure, agriculture and disaster management.

* SCOR SE unit SCOR Global Life SE received Japanese FSA approval to set up a branch in Tokyo. The reinsurer first entered the Japanese market in 1983 through the establishment of a liaison office.

* Standard Life Plc is considering establishing its EU base in Dublin after Britain leaves the bloc, according to The Irish Times. RSA Insurance Group Plc, meanwhile, reportedly decided against setting up its post-Brexit EU base in Ireland, where unit RSA Insurance Ireland DAC. remains under investigation by regulators for alleged financial irregularities.

This way to exit

* Old Mutual Plc put its 50% stake in an insurance joint venture with Chinese state-run power group Guodian Corp. up for sale, insiders told Reuters. The company may sell its holding to one or more local firms as part of plans to exit noncore and smaller operations.

* Legal & General Group Plc completed the sale of Legal & General Nederland Levensverzekering Maatschappij NV to Chesnara Plc for €161.2 million. The transaction is part of L&G's plan to dispose of noncore businesses.

* Aviva Plc exited French life insurer Antarius SA after selling its 50% stake in the joint venture to Société Générale SA.

On the M&A front

* National Bank of Greece SA received four bids for a majority stake in unit Ethniki Hellenic General Insurance Co. SA, Reuters reported. The investors include China-based Fosun, Gongbao and Wintime and John Calamos' insurance start-up Exin Partners.

* A European affiliate of Global Bankers Insurance Group agreed to acquire NN Life Luxembourg SA, a unit of NN Group NV that operates a life insurance platform for high-net-worth customers.

* Euroins Insurance Group AD will launch a bid to purchase the remaining 9.9% of Bulgarian unit Euroins Insurance AD from the company's minority shareholders. Euroins Insurance AD will be delisted from the Sofia Stock Exchange if the offer is accepted.

Bigwig moves

* Aon Plc promoted John Bruno to COO. Meanwhile, Michael O'Halleran will retire May 1 as executive chairman of Aon Benfield and senior executive vice president of Aon.

* Alm. Brand A/S named Rasmus Nielsen CFO. He replaces Anne Barfod, who will step down May 31.

* Roger Millay will retire as CFO of Willis Towers Watson Plc, effective Oct. 2.

In other news

* Tryg A/S reported first-quarter profit of 605 million Danish kroner, up from 445 million kroner in the year-ago period.

* Insurance industry data provider PERILS pegged its initial loss estimate for the insured property market due to extra-tropical cyclone Thomas at €213 million. Thomas, which is also known as Doris in the U.K., affected the British Isles, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany on Feb. 23 and 24.

* Insurance technology startup Trov closed $45 million in series D funding, bringing its total funding to more than $85 million. Trov is also expanding its strategic alliance with Munich Re to include underwriting throughout Europe, Asia and South Africa.

Featured during the week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

SNL European insurance indexes, Q1'17 performance: Chart Watch: The SNL European Insurance index rose 5.3% during the first quarter.

Dutch insurers 1st to feel sting as European regulator cuts discount rate: A decision by Europe's insurance regulator to cut the rate used to value long-term liabilities is likely to affect Dutch insurers first and foremost.

Dutch insurers face margin pressure in 2017 despite election boost: Although victory of the center-right VVD Party in the recent Dutch elections eased some concerns over the operating environment for Dutch insurers, the loose European monetary policy poses difficulties for them, according to analysts.