Swiss Re Team Favored to Acquire Groupama’s Brokerage Unit – Sources

By Sophie Sassard and | April 25, 2012

Swiss Re and its private equity partners Apax and PAI are in pole position to acquire Groupama’s GAN Eurocourtage [brokerage] unit for about €600 million ($793.2 million), people familiar with the situation said.

The Swiss reinsurance group teamed up with the private equity firms to reassure the French regulator, Autorité de Controle Prudentiel (ACP), over the long-term ownership of the business, the people said.

Discussions between French mutual insurer Groupama and Allianz are also progressing after the German insurer recently improved its initial €200 million [$264.4 million] bid, the people added.

A third consortium led by private equity firm Advent and including another reinsurer is also getting close to making an offer, the people said.

Groupama told Reuters that it is hoping to sign a deal by the end of May.

Outside France, the mutual insurer recently put its Spanish insurance business up for sale. The unit is worth about €500 million [$661 million] and is likely to attract mainly Spanish insurance companies, the people said.

Groupama’s Turkish insurance business could be the next asset on the block, the people said.

Although a formal sale has yet to start, Groupama has already received plenty of interest for the fast-growing business which could help it to raise an additional €300 million [$396.6 million], the people said.

Groupama recently sold its entire 3.1 percent stake in media and transport investment group Bollore, the latest in a series of moves aimed at bolstering its finances.

It could also sell its 6.9 percent stake in Eiffage, according to the CEO of the French construction group, although a decision has yet to be taken.

Last year, Groupama raised €500 million [$661 million] for its life insurance unit, GAN Vie, through its regional insurance network.

The French insurer was forced to sell units as well as stakes it owned in several listed companies as the regulator urged it to shore up its solvency margin, which was hurt by the firm’s exposure to the sovereign debt crisis and a depressed equity market.

In December, Groupama sold its 44 percent stake in SILIC, a real estate company, to French peer Icade in return for a €300 million [$396.6 million] investment from Icade’s owner, Caisse des Depots (CDC).

Groupama posted a €1.81 billion [$2.392 billion] full-year loss last month after write downs on equities in its portfolio as well as on Greek debt.

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