Orix Corp., a Japanese finance and leasing firm, said it is in talks to buy Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.’s unit in the country.

Nothing has been decided on the purchase, Tokyo-based Orix said in a statement filed with the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The U.S. insurer, which has been focusing on property-casualty coverage, is near a deal to sell Japan operations to Orix, two people familiar with knowledge of their talks told Bloomberg News March 14.

The transaction would include retirement products known as variable annuities, said the people, who asked not to be identified because discussions are private. Orix would pay about $875 million, according to the Nikkei newspaper, which reported the talks over the weekend.

Hartford Chief Executive Officer Liam McGee, 59, has sold a U.S. unit to Prudential Financial Inc. and added hedges to guard against currency fluctuations and stock-market declines as he seeks to limit liabilities tied to life and retirement contracts issued in prior years. He announced a deal last year to sell a U.K. variable annuity unit to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

“We continue to look at ways to further accelerate the runoff of the legacy annuity block and to permanently eliminate these exposures, Shannon Lapierre, a spokeswoman for Hartford, said in an e-mail on March 14. “A transaction is one of the options we would evaluate.”

Shares of Orix fell 2.8 percent to 1,406 yen at 10:19 a.m. in Tokyo, bringing their year-to-date loss to 24 percent. Hartford advanced 0.9 percent to $35.25 in New York trading March 14, paring its decline this year to 2.7 percent.

Lapierre said any offer would be evaluated based on the likelihood of regulators’ support and the prospect that a deal would help release capital. She declined to comment on Orix, citing company policy about market speculation.

–With assistance from Takako Taniguchi in Tokyo and Zachary Tracer and Matthew Monks in New York.

Topics Japan