ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - Swiss Re is pressing ahead with plans to float its $4.5 billion UK life insurance business in London to put it under a more favorable 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% stake, it said on Friday.
The insurer has 68.7 billion pounds ($87.3 billion) of assets under administration and focuses on so-called closed book policies that are shut to new customers.
Under the flotation plans, Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest reinsurer, would cut its stake in ReAssure to below 50% from 75% now. Japan’s MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings intends to keep its holding at 25% after the initial public offering (IPO), ReAssure CEO Mark Hodges told a media call.
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 books of policies, which pay out to existing members are no longer actively sold.
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 is due to be published later on Friday. The final timing of the IPO has not been decided, Hodges said.
Britain’s planned departure from the EU has crimped investment and deterred some companies from listing in London, but Hodges said it wasn’t an issue.
“Markets have been a bit choppy, at the end of the day we fundamentally think this is a sound business.”
Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Georg Marti said based on the price paid by anchor shareholder MS&AD for its stake, the total value of ReAssure was around 3.5 billion pounds ($4.5 billion), adding 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 percent at 98.50 Swiss francs.
Hodges said ReAssure aimed to pay 265 million pounds in dividends a year to investors over the next five years.
Swiss Re said it and MS&AD would inject 481 million pounds 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.
Reporting by John Revill, additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn, Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Mark Potter