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Cinven, GIC agree to buy Willis Towers Watson's insurance broker

[LONDON] Cinven has agreed to buy Miller, the specialist insurance broker owned by Willis Towers Watson, in its first deal from a new fund dedicated to financial services investments.

The private equity firm is teaming up with Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC to acquire London-based Miller, the buyers said in a Monday statement confirming an earlier Bloomberg News report. While financial details were not disclosed, the deal values the business at about £680 million (S$1.2 billion), people familiar with the matter said.

Willis Towers Watson bought Miller in 2015. It's recently been exploring strategic alternatives for the business following its March agreement to be taken over by rival Aon in a roughly US$30 billion deal.

"Miller is a highly attractive, resilient specialist insurance business with strong long-term growth opportunities across all of its segments," said Luigi Sbrozzi, a Cinven partner, in the statement.

A representative for Willis Towers Watson didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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By purchasing Miller, Cinven enters the fragmented market of insurance broking, which could lead to further acquisitions. Insurers brokers are lucrative targets for private equity, as they're cash generative and don't have to hold regulatory capital like insurers.

Miller's brokers act as the intermediaries between companies and the insurers that provide them policies, as well as between insurers and reinsurers. It also helps US clients get specialty coverage in the Lloyd's of London market. Its key business lines include marine insurance as well as sports insurance for soccer teams looking to cover their players. Miller places roughly £2 billion in premiums each year, according to Monday's statement.

"We see opportunities both organically, by recruiting new specialist brokers, and through incremental M&A over time," Mr Sbrozzi said.

Cinven is close to raising about 1.5 billion euros (S$2.38 billion) to acquire stakes in financial-services companies, Bloomberg reported in September. The Miller deal is the first using money from this new pool, the people said. The firm's portfolio of financial services assets already includes life insurance-market consolidators Eurovita Holding in Italy and Viridium Group in Germany.

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