ACE Ltd. shocked the industry with news earlier in July that it would pay $28 billion in cash and stock for Chubb Corp., an industry rival. But it’s only the latest in a series of M&A moves in recent months that have included a massive XL and Catlin merger, Validus revealing plans to buy Western World Insurance Group and PartnerRe/AXIS Capital Holdings announcing their intention to join forces.
Swiss Re predicted more M&A activity to come, due to new regulations and an influx of alternative capital. As well, A.M. Best Co. noted in a July 9 briefing that insurance M&A activity between larger companies has accelerated in recent months, driven by an eye on boosting size and reach.
“Strong standalone organizations are combining with other strong organizations to become even stronger,” A.M. Best wrote.
The ratings entity pointed out that in the wake of a soft reinsurance market and competitive property/casualty conditions, carriers want better purchasing power in order to better influence reinsurance terms and conditions. Others are also seeking ways to boost their ability to tap into alternative reinsurance capital.
This trend is even affecting insurance brokers, who must innovate to keep up, A.M. Best said, noting the recently announced Willis Group Holdings/Towers Watson & Co. planned merger.
There are more factors than that, however, that are driving industry consolidation. As A.M. Best also points out, companies need to remain relevant in the face of new challenges such as cyber risk, increasing regulatory pressures and diminishing investment returns. M&A is a natural response to this, creating scale and global reach.
Below, we highlight some of the bigger M&A deals that property/casualty insurers have announced so far this year. Some have already concluded, others are pending, and at least one has taken a number of dramatic twists and turns.
ACE Ltd. and Chubb Corp. The $28.3 billion merger deal announced July 1 is the largest the P/C industry has seen in years. Once the merger passes various regulatory and shareholder obstacles, it would create a $46 billion global organization in terms of shareholders equity, and the Chubb name will remain. The combined company will also rank second among U.S. commercial lines insurers, be the U.S. leader in high-net-worth personal lines coverages and be the top global player in professional lines. Evan Greenberg, ACE chairman and CEO, will lead the post-merger operation, a deal he said took only weeks to solidify.
PartnerRe and AXIS Capital Holdings Ltd. The rivals announced their merger deal in January, an action that would create a Bermuda-based reinsurance giant with a total market value that surpasses nearly $11 billion. But then something happened: Italian investment outfit EXOR emerged in April as a second suitor for PartnerRe, with the announcement of its unsolicited $6.4 billion all-cash offer that it pitched as something that was of “superior value” for PartnerRe shareholders.
PartnerRe’s board rebuffed the bid, but then EXOR sweetened its offer to $6.8 billion and pushed to meet with shareholders. A back-and-forth continued, with more twists and turns along the way. Recently, PartnerRe and AXIS postponed a shareholder merger vote scheduled for July 24 until Aug. 7, to allow both sides to develop an enhanced agreement in a bid to fend off AXIS.
XL Group Plc. and Catlin Group Ltd. XL Group’s $4.2 billion offer for Catlin, first announced in January, closed May 1, creating a global insurer and reinsurer known as XL Catlin. XL CEO Mike McGavick remains in charge of the combined company, and Catlin Group founder/CEO Stephen Catlin stayed on board as deputy chairman and as a member of XL Catlin’s board of directors. When the deal was announced in January, McGavick noted that the combination would “add immediate scale in specialty insurance.”
RenRe and Platinum. RenRe’s $1.99 billion cash-stock acquisition of Platinum Underwriters Holdings, announced in late November 2014, closed on March 2. Observers prophetically expected the deal to spur further M&A action in the months ahead. The agreement created a $4 billion company with a much larger footprint in the U.S. casualty and specialty reinsurance markets. It also allows RenRe an opportunity to put its expertise to work managing third-party capital to work on part of Platinum Re’s book of business.
Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and Brit plc. Fairfax Financial Holdings, a Canadian property/casualty insurer, announced in February that it would grab Brit plc for about $1.88 billion. As Reuters reported, the sale establishes one of the top 5 underwriters in the Lloyd’s of London Market. Fairfax explained it was interested in Brit’s expanding reach in both the U.S. and internationally. By combining, Fairfax supplements its own operations and also gets to diversify its risk portfolio.