June 17, 2014 / 2:26 AM / 4 years ago

British insurer RSA seeks buyers for Asian operations -sources

HONG KONG, June 17 (Reuters) - RSA Insurance Group Ltd , Britain’s largest non-life insurer, is looking to sell its Asian operations in an auction that could fetch up to $500 million and draw a wide range of suitors, people familiar with the sale process told Reuters.

The sale is part of a group-wide restructuring led by new Chief Executive Stephen Hester, after losses caused by extreme weather and accounting irregularities at its Irish division hit its finances and prompted the departure of several senior executives.

Insurers considering bids include Sompo Japan Insurance, a unit of NKSJ Holdings Inc as well as France’s AXA , the people said. Australia’s QBE Insurance Group Ltd and German insurer Allianz SE are also weighing their options, they added.

RSA, which is being advised by Goldman Sachs Group, is expected to kick off the sale process in the coming weeks, one of the people said.

RSA declined to comment, as did Allianz, QBE and Sompo Japan. AXA said it takes an extremely disciplined approach to examining acquisition opportunities but did not specifically reference RSA.

Goldman Sachs also declined to comment.

In Asia, RSA has businesses in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and India but those operations contributed less than 2 percent to net premiums in the first quarter of 2014. That has encouraged the company to focus on core markets, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scandinavia. ($1 = 0.5956 British Pounds) (Reporting by Denny Thomas; Additional reporting by Taiga Uranaka in Tokyo, Byron Kaye in Sydney and Christopher Vellacott in London; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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