Canada’s Sun Life Selling Reinsurance Unit to Berkshire Hathaway

October 27, 2010

Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial Inc. said Wednesday it would sell its reinsurance business to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway after months of looking for a buyer for the profitable unit.

Sun Life did not disclose sale terms for the business, which has 70 employees in offices in the United States, Canada and Ireland. A spokesman said the sale was not material financially to the company. He added Berkshire did not intend to keep the unit’s Ireland office open but would take the rest.

The operation, which reinsures risk from life reinsurers — what the industry calls “retrocession” — has in-force life insurance of C$113 billion ($109.4 billion).

The deal is expected to close Dec. 31. Sun Life said the sale will boost its minimum continuing capital and surplus requirement ratio, a Canadian metric of capital adequacy, by 10 to 14 percentage points. The ratio was 210 percent at June 30.

“Our reinsurance business is profitable, but it is not a growth area for Sun Life Financial and this transaction releases capital which can be put to work in other businesses,” Sun Life Chief Executive Donald Stewart said in a statement.

Sun Life shares fell 28 cents to C$27.75 in midday trading in Toronto. Berkshire Hathaway class A shares fell 2.5 percent to $120,315 and class B shares fell 2.4 percent to $80.21 in New York Stock Exchange trading.

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