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Report: Aviva eyes Achmea's Irish life assurance unit

Aviva Plc is in advanced discussions to purchase Achmea BV's Ireland-based life assurance, pensions and investment unit Friends First, which was put up for sale in recent months, sourced told The Irish Times.

However, it is understood that negotiations are not at a stage where Aviva is considered the preferred buyer, according to the Oct. 9 report.

KBC Group NV unit KBC Bank Ireland Plc and Bank of Ireland Group Plc unit New Ireland Assurance Co. Plc were reportedly named as potential suitors for Friends First, but the former is not thought to have serious interest in a potential deal, while the latter has dropped out of the race, according to the sources.

Friends First, which was fully acquired by Achmea 15 years ago, has reportedly attracted interest from so-called zombie insurance specialists, which specialize in running off closed life insurance portfolios. A potential deal with Aviva could result in some of Friends First's portfolios being sold by the U.K. insurer to one of these specialists, according to the report.

Friends First employs some 300 people and has about 281,000 Irish customers and more than €4 billion in AUM, The Irish Times noted.