Prudential to Pay $615 Million for Hartford’s Life Insurance Unit

September 28, 2012

Prudential Financial Inc. will buy the individual life insurance business of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. for $615 million in cash, the companies said on Thursday.

Prudential said the deal would add scale to its own individual life business, while for The Hartford the sale lets it complete an asset disposal program months ahead of schedule.

The agreement is structured as a reinsurance transaction, with Prudential taking on the obligations for The Hartford’s roughly 700,000 policies. It is expected to close early next year. Prudential also said the head of its individual life unit would retire and be replaced by the chief actuary.

With the sale, The Hartford will close out a restructuring unveiled earlier this year that was designed to tighten the company’s focus on its property and casualty insurance business.

Under pressure to improve returns from its largest shareholder, hedge fund manager John Paulson, The Hartford said in March it would shut down its annuity business and pursue sales for its broker-dealer, retirement plan and individual life operations.

Chief Executive Liam McGee had forecast a sale process of 12 months to 18 months, but managed to sign all the requisite deals in just six months.

The insurer sold the broker-dealer business to American International Group Inc. in July and the retirement plan business to MassMutual earlier this month.

The company said in a statement that it would provide an update on how it plans to use the various deal proceeds early next year. Ratings agency A.M. Best said it would keep The Hartford’s ratings under review until discussing those capital plans with management.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday that Prudential and Hartford were close to a deal. On the back of that report, shares of The Hartford closed 3.3 percent higher at $19.30 on the New York Stock Exchange, ahead of the announcement.

Since announcing the break-up plan on March 21, The Hartford’s stock is down about 11 percent, against gains of 2.5 percent for the S&P insurance index.

Paulson’s primary complaint has been the insurer’s anemic valuation, which has not improved much this year. Whether using price-to-book ratio (favored for property insurers) or a forward price-to-earnings ratio (preferred for life insurers), The Hartford trades at less than half of the sector averages.

Prudential, on the other hand, has been struggling to meet Wall Street expectations of late. The company has missed consensus earnings estimates three of the last four quarters, and its stock is down 15 percent from highs in late March.

Shares of Prudential closed up 2 percent at $54.80 on Thursday.

Earnings in the individual life segment of Prudential’s business fell sharply in the second quarter, as an unexpectedly high death rate from older policies ate into results.

Goldman Sachs and Greenhill & Co. acted as deal advisers to The Hartford, while Sutherland Asbill & Brennan were legal advisers. Prudential did not list any advisers on its side.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz in Boston; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Jeffrey Benkoe, Leslie Adler and Leslie Gevirtz)

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