Fosun International Ltd., the conglomerate founded by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, is in advanced discussions to acquire RSA Insurance Group Plc’s Middle East business, people familiar with the matter said.
The sale could fetch less than $200 million, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. The Chinese firm bid higher than some other suitors, though talks could still be delayed or fall apart, one of the people said.
An acquisition would be Fosun’s second deal in the Middle East, following its $476 million purchase of a controlling stake in Israeli insurer Phoenix Holdings Ltd. announced in June, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Chinese conglomerate has spent $5.7 billion acquiring insurance assets in the past two years, the data show.
RSA, which has received a takeover approach from Zurich Insurance Group AG for the whole company, has been cutting costs and selling assets to bolster its balance sheet. The company agreed last week to sell its Latin American operations to Suramericana SA for about 403 million pounds ($629 million) in cash.
In the Middle East, RSA operates in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman. The unit generated about 150 million pounds in net written premiums in 2013, according to the insurer’s latest annual report. RSA is working with UBS Group AG to find a buyer for the Middle East business, people familiar with the matter said in January.
There’s no certainty Fosun will be able to reach an agreement, and RSA could choose to pursue a deal with another bidder, according to the people. Representatives for Fosun and RSA declined to comment.
–With assistance from Emma Dong in Shanghai.