Report: AXA, ACE Are Final Two Contestants for HSBC Insurance Arm

February 8, 2012

France’s AXA Group and ACE Limited are the final two suitors in the hunt to buy HSBC’s $1 billion general insurance business, people familiar with the matter said.

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, started the sale of the unit in September as part of its retreat from areas where it lacks scale or profitability is too low.

It operates a non-life insurance business in Asia, some Latin American countries and France and had sought to fetch about $1 billion from a deal, sources previously told Reuters.

The sources previously said that while HSBC would prefer to sell the unit in one lot, it could split the sale along different geographies if that raised more money.

AXA, Europe’s second-biggest insurer, has long been seen as a potential buyer of the business. Other firms to have been linked with the business have included Allianz, Generali and Zurich Financial.

ACE has struck several deals in the past two years, including spending $425 million last year on New York Life Insurance’s operations in Hong Kong and Korea and the $1.1 billion purchase of crop insurance provider Rain and Hail Insurance Service.

It is one of the world’s biggest providers of property and casualty insurance, operating in 53 countries with 16,000 staff, and with nearly $21 billion of gross written premiums last year.

HSBC, AXA and ACE all declined to comment.

HSBC has struck 18 sales in the past year, releasing more than $48 billion of risk-weighted assets as part of chief executive Stuart Gulliver’s plan to reshape the bank, cut costs and lift profitability.

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