Italy’s Generali Eyes Possible Acquisition of U.S. Asset Manager Brightsphere: Sources

By , and | June 29, 2020

Assicurazioni Generali SpA has approached Brightsphere Investment Group Inc about a possible acquisition of the U.S. asset management firm, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

A deal would expand the U.S. footprint of Italy’s top insurer while enabling Brightsphere’s largest shareholder, hedge fund Paulson & Co, to cash out.

There is no certainty that Generali will be able to meet Paulson’s valuation expectations for Brightsphere, the sources said. However, if the companies can negotiate a deal, the acquisition would not face any significant antitrust hurdles, one of the sources added.

The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. Generali declined to comment, while Brightsphere and Paulson did not respond to requests for comment.

Brightsphere shares rose as much as 25% on the news, giving the company a market capitalization of more than $1 billion. Brightsphere also had total borrowings as of the end of March of $635.6 million.

Generali on Thursday announced it was buying 24.4% of smaller rival Cattolica Assicurazioni, a move which made Generali its largest shareholder.

Under a three-year strategic plan presented in late 2018 Generali earmarked up to 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) for acquisitions. Last month, Chief Executive Philippe Donnet told Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore that Generali was looking at the United States and Asia for asset management deals.

Generali has been present in the United States since 1935 and has focused on insurance and reinsurance products. Italian insurers have been buffeted by the market rout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undermined the value of their assets, including large holdings of domestic government bonds.

Brightsphere is a Boston-based holding company for seven boutique asset management brands, and has around $160 billion of assets under management, according to its website.

Paulson & Co bought a 25% stake in Brightsphere in 2018 from embattled Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. The head of the hedge fund, John Paulson, was elevated to chairman of Brightsphere in April.

(Reporting by David French in New York, Pamela Barbaglia in London and Stephen Jewkes in Milan; additional reporting by Gianluca Semeraro in Milan and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang, Diane Craft and Jonathan Oatis)

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