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Swiss Re 'open' to anchor investor as SoftBank talks fail

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Swiss Re AG said it would continue to welcome an anchor investor after Masayoshi Son's SoftBank Group Corp ended its pursuit of a stake in the world's second-largest reinsurer.

[ZURICH] Swiss Re AG said it would continue to welcome an anchor investor after Masayoshi Son's SoftBank Group Corp ended its pursuit of a stake in the world's second-largest reinsurer.

The collapsed talks mark the end of nearly four months of deliberations about how SoftBank would invest in Swiss Re, though the two companies said Monday they may yet agree to collaborate on some businesses. A purchase of a stake would have given the Japanese technology and investment company access to steady cash flows and help diversify its sources of income.

"We are still on very friendly terms - it wasn't a sour end to the talks," Swiss Re spokesman Willy-Andreas Heckmann said by phone. The reinsurer is still open to "interesting anchor shareholders," Mr Heckmann said. He declined to say whether Swiss Re is in discussions with other potential investors.

The two sides had disagreed over the price and size of the stake and over how much management control would be handed to Mr Son, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month. Swiss Re's reluctance to issue new shares means SoftBank would have been forced to buy its stake on the open market.

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The Swiss company "will also further explore business ideas between Swiss Re's operative entities and the portfolio companies of SoftBank," according to a statement on Monday. Swiss Re was up 0.5 per cent at 91.12 Swiss francs at 9:05am in Zurich, leaving them little changed since the start of the year.

Issues within SoftBank, such as the pending merger of its Sprint Corp business with T-Mobile US Inc and the initial public offering of SoftBank's mobile unit, had shifted Mr Son's focus, the people had said.

"The termination of discussions about a potential minority stake are not really surprising, but still somehow disappointing," Bank Vontobel AG analyst Stefan Schuermann said in a note to investors. "Now, not much can be expected from SoftBank."

Though it was initially reported in February that SoftBank was interested in as much as a third of the insurer, Swiss Re later said the stake under discussion was 10 per cent or less. Earlier this month Swiss Re could shed little light on deal progress after reports that the deal had stalled. Asked about the talks on May 4, chief financial offer John Dacey told reporters that talks were continuing and the company had nothing further to add.

Mr Son has a net worth of about US$13 billion and is Japan's third-richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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