July 26, 2018 / 4:52 PM / 2 months ago

Fosun hasn't made approach to Ageas: Ageas CEO

LONDON (Reuters) - Ageas (AGES.BR) has not been approached by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International (0656.HK) about a possible bid, the Belgian insurer’s chief executive told Reuters on Friday, adding that he has met Fosun officials on only one occasion in the past.

FILE PHOTO: Ageas Chief Executive Bart De Smet presents the company's 2012 annual results during a news conference in Brussels February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

Ageas’ shares briefly jumped as much as 6.5 percent on Wednesday after Bloomberg News reported Fosun was considering a bid for Ageas, which has operations in Asia and Europe.

Ageas has a market capitalization of 9.1 billion euros ($10.61 billion), though bankers told Reuters any bid for the firm would likely total more than 10 billion euros.

Fosun is in talks with advisers about alternatives which include teaming up with a partner to split the Belgian company or increase its current stake, Bloomberg said, citing sources.

“We have no indication of any concrete interest of Fosun so far,” Bart De Smet told Reuters by phone.

“It’s not that we’ve received a call, a letter, a mail, not at all.”

De Smet said he had not been in recent contact with Fosun and had only once had direct contact with the Chinese firm, which has a three percent stake in Ageas.

“I have once seen them at a roadshow,” he said.

Fosun, co-founded by China’s self-styled Warren Buffett Guo Guangchang, owns Portuguese insurer Fidelidade.

It was trying to buy the assets of Generali Leben, a unit of Italian insurer Generali (GASI.MI), but the deal was clinched this month by Viridium.

Generali Leben manages life insurance policies closed to new customers.

De Smet said Ageas had no such plans for its own European closed life books.

“We have very well-structured and profitable life books - we do not see a reason to sell them off,” he said.

Ageas could be an attractive medium-sized target for a non-European insurer looking for a base in Europe, but it has several joint ventures in Asia and Europe which could act as a “poison pill”, deterring bidders, bankers said.

De Smet said the insurer had established joint ventures because of local foreign ownership rules or because “we want to team up with a local champion who already has a distribution channel”.

Additional reporting by Pamela Barbaglia in London and Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt; Editing by Jan Harvey

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