British insurer RSA is not looking to be taken over but might consider offers if they are in shareholders’ interests, Chief Executive Stephen Hester said on Thursday after the firm posted a 4 percent rise in net asset value in the third quarter.
Tougher regulation and hefty competition in the insurance sector, along with low investment returns, have encouraged a number of insurance tie-ups globally.
Rival Zurich Insurance abandoned a proposed 5.6 billion pound ($8.6 billion) bid for RSA in September, a process Hester described as a “distraction.”
“We are very clear that this company can do extremely well on its own, we are not looking for a deal,” Hester told Reuters by telephone, but added:
“No public company can dictate who owns its shares – there are consolidation trends in this industry. We will behave in shareholders’ interests.”
RSA’s largest shareholder is activist investor Cevian Capital.
Hester declined to comment on whether RSA was currently in talks with prospective buyers.
European insurers such as Allianz and AXA have ruled themselves out of the running for RSA, but industry specialists say Chinese or Japanese companies could be interested.
Hester, former boss of Royal Bank of Scotland, was hired to turn RSA around following losses in 2013.
RSA, best known in Britain for its “More Than” insurance brand, said core net written premiums in the first nine months rose 1 percent to 4.4 billion pounds [$6.8 billion] from a year earlier, helped by a drop in weather-related claims.
Tangible net asset value rose 4 percent to 3 billion pounds [$4.6 billion] as of Sept. 30 from the previous quarter, above analysts’ expectations and sending RSA’s shares up 3 percent to 428 pence on Thursday.
They have retreated from a near-two-year high of 528 pence on Aug. 25 when Zurich tabled a 550 pence per share cash bid.
RSA took a 16 million pound [$24.7 million] hit from the earthquake in Chile in September and Hester said the firm’s exposure to explosions in the Chinese port of Tianjin in August was likely to total around 10 million pounds [$15.4 million].
RSA has sold a number of its businesses across the world as part of its restructuring plan.
It sold its Latin American business for 400 million pounds [$616.3 million] in September and is expected to sell its Russian and Middle Eastern businesses.
“We are moving towards completion of those discussions,” Hester said.
“By the end of the year, we hope to have completed the strategic focus.”
Analysts at JP Morgan Cazenove said RSA’s results were “reassuring,” with premiums in line with their forecast and tangible net asset value above forecast. They reiterated their neutral rating on the stock.
(Editing by Sinead Cruise and Susan Fenton)
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