French insurer Covea is in advanced talks with the Agnelli family’s Exor NV to buy the Italian company’s reinsurance business PartnerRe for about $9 billion in cash, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Covea approached Exor with an offer for the Bermuda-based reinsurer and is in exclusive talks with the holding company that also controls Fiat Chrysler NV and Ferrari NV, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.
Exor and Covea confirmed the exclusive discussions, which were first reported by Bloomberg. Talks “are ongoing and there is no certainty that they will result in a transaction,” Amsterdam-based Exor said in a statement.
Exor, led by the Agnelli scion John Elkann — who is also chairman of Fiat and Ferrari — bought PartnerRe for $6.9 billion in 2015 to diversify its assets outside the capital-intensive automotive industry. A sale for $9 billion in cash would mark a significant gain for the Italian billionaire clan.
The acquisition of PartnerRe would help Covea diversify its business beyond home, auto, life and health insurance coverage. Insurers and reinsurers are under pressure from the low to negative interest rates at which they have to invest a large chunk of their premiums. Insurers thus have turned to dealmaking and ways of diversifying their revenue streams, including moves into reinsurance and asset management.
It would be biggest deal in the industry since Axa SA bought XL in 2018 for $15.3 billion. Covea abandoned efforts to buy its French rival Scor in 2019, ending one of the country’s most acrimonious takeover attempts in recent years. Reinsurers insure risks of primary insurers such as Covea and have themselves been subject to pricing pressure and consolidation in the industry.
Exor won a hostile takeover battle for PartnerRe in 2015, breaking up a merger agreement between the reinsurer and Axis Capital Holdings Ltd. A sale of the company would mark another major deal for Elkann just a few months after Fiat Chrysler agreed to combine with PSA Group in December to create the world’s fourth-biggest carmaker.