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H1 profits up; ReAssure, Quilter sign £425M deal; DARAG sells portfolio to SOVAG

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

UK insurers' 1st-half earnings up year over year

* U.K. insurer Aviva PLC said first-half operating profit increased 1% to £1.45 billion from £1.44 billion in the prior-year period, as it confirmed it is examining options for its Asian operations. Profit after tax jumped to £1.18 billion from £376 million a year earlier. Basic EPS climbed year over year to 28.2 pence from 7.9 pence. The increase was attributed to positive investment variances from the company's life and general insurance businesses.

* British insurer Legal & General Group PLC reported first-half profit after tax attributable to equity holders of £874 million, up year over year from £771 million. CFO Jeff Davies said its growth in bulk annuities will not be constrained by access to the appropriate assets to back the deals.

Solid set of results elsewhere too

* Zurich Insurance Group AG said it is fully on track to exceed all of its 2017-2019 financial targets as it reported a 14% year-over-year increase in first-half net income. The group's after-tax net income attributable to shareholders came in at $2.04 billion, compared to the year-ago $1.79 billion. EPS was CHF13.67, up from CHF11.57 a year ago.

* Munich Re Co. reported second-quarter consolidated result attributable to equity holders of €993 million, up from €724 million a year ago. The German reinsurer attributed the result to low major losses and reserve releases for basic losses from prior years.

* German reinsurance group Hannover Re confirmed its profit target for the full year as it reported a year-over-year rise in group net income for the second quarter of €368.9 million, up from €281.9 million a year earlier. EPS for the quarter was €3.06, compared to the year-ago €2.34.

* Ageas SA/NV's second-quarter net result rose to €354.6 million from €193.5 million in the prior-year period, attributable to the increase to the "solid" result of the Asian life operations and a strong operating performance in nonlife, especially in Belgium and continental Europe. CEO Bart De Smet said the Belgian insurance group could beat its guidance of 2019 net profit of €800 million to €900 million, and will maintain discipline on how much it pays to make acquisitions despite missing out on recent deals.

Deals corner

* European bidders, including Paris-based CNP Assurances SA and Verona, Italy-based Società Cattolica di Assicurazione - SC are looking to acquire a controlling stake in the insurance arm of Bergamo, Italy-based Unione di Banche Italiane SpA, Reuters reported, citing sources. UBI Banca intends to sell about 60% to 70% of its life insurance-focused unit and intends to receive binding bids at September-end.

* Italian life insurer Eurovita Holding has acquired Pramerica Life SpA from U.S.-based Prudential Financial Inc. for an undisclosed price, Reuters reported. The deal will boost Eurovita's gross written premiums to €2 billion, according to the report.

* Swiss Re AG unit ReAssure Group PLC has agreed to acquire the U.K. closed-book business of Quilter PLC for a total consideration of about £425 million. The book consists of Old Mutual Wealth Life Assurance Ltd. and its subsidiary Old Mutual Wealth Pensions Trustees Ltd., including about 300 employees.

In other news

* Finnish insurer Sampo Oyj reported second-quarter group profit attributable to owners of the parent of €404 million, down from €586 million in the year-ago period.

* Malta-based DARAG Group Ltd. signed a portfolio transfer agreement with German insurer Schwarzmeer und Ostsee Versicherungsaktiengesellschaft, or SOVAG. The legacy book consists of direct insurance and inwards reinsurance business. The insurance business includes a number of specialty lines such as liability, property, transport and motor, with clientele based in Germany, Spain, Malta, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria.

* Fidelis Insurance Ireland DAC CEO and Chief Underwriting Officer Colm Lyons is departing the company, and will be replaced by Robert Kelly as CEO and Simon Crone as chief underwriting officer. Kelly is also the company's CFO. Fidelis Insurance Ireland is a regulated insurer and reinsurer established by Fidelis Insurance Holdings Ltd. in 2018.

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