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Swiss Re pressing ahead with US$4.5b IPO of UK unit to help expansion

It plans to cut its stake in ReAssure from 75% to below 50%

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Swiss Re's headquarters in Zurich. The IPO of its UK unit "could allow Swiss Re to deploy capital to more higher yielding businesses like life and non-life reinsurance", says Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Georg Marti.

Zurich

SWISS Re is pressing ahead with plans to float its US$4.5 billion UK life insurance business in London to put it under a more favourable regulatory regime and give it easier access to capital to fund its expansion.

ReAssure, Britain's sixth largest life insurer, intends to list at least a 25 per cent stake, it said on Friday.

The insurer has £68.7 billion (S$119.3 billion) of assets under administration and focuses on so-called closed book policies that are shut to new customers.

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Under the flotation plans, Swiss Re, the world's second largest reinsurer, would cut its stake in ReAssure to below 50 per cent from 75 per cent now. Japan's MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings intends to keep its holding at 25 per cent after the initial public offering (IPO), ReAssure CEO Mark Hodges told a media call.

Mr Hodges said the deal would "allow ReAssure to pursue growth going forward, knowing that we have two anchor shareholders".

The listing would enable ReAssure to operate under the European Union's Solvency II regime, which had less onerous capital requirements than Switzerland's regime, ReAssure chief financial officer Ian Patrick told the call.

Although Britain may leave Solvency II after it quits the EU, it is expected to retain a similar regime.

ReAssure wants access to new capital to acquire additional closed book policies.

Scale is increasingly important in an industry where insurers are struggling to pay guaranteed returns for life insurance policies due to record-low interest rates.

ReAssure's publication of the registration document for the IPO will be the first step towards a listing, Swiss Re said. The document was expected to be published later on Friday. The final timing of the IPO has not been decided, Mr Hodges said.

Britain's planned departure from the EU has crimped investment and deterred some companies from listing in London, but Mr Hodges said it wasn't an issue.

"Markets have been a bit choppy, but at the end of the day we fundamentally think this is a sound business."

Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Georg Marti said that based on the price paid by anchor shareholder MS&AD for its stake, the total value of ReAssure was around £3.5 billion, adding that the IPO "could allow Swiss Re to deploy capital to more higher yielding businesses like life and non-life reinsurance".

At 0845 GMT, Swiss Re shares were up 1.5 per cent at 98.50 Swiss francs (S$135.53).

Mr Hodges said ReAssure aimed to pay £265 million in dividends a year to investors over the next five years.

Swiss Re said it and MS&AD would inject £481 million in new capital into ReAssure ahead of the IPO.

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and UBS are the joint global coordinators, while BNP Paribas and HSBC will act as joint bookrunners in the flotation. REUTERS