U.S. insurer American National Group Inc is exploring options that could include a sale of the company, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
The news sent shares of American National spiking to their highest level in more than two years, closing 16.1% higher at $142.28 to give the insurer a market value in excess of $3.8 billion.
Started in 1905 by William Lewis Moody Jr., American National is still majority-owned by the founder’s family, which controls the company through a range of trusts and holdings.
An investment bank has been hired to run an auction for American National, with prospective buyers recently contacted to gauge their interest in a deal, the sources said.
The sources cautioned that no transaction is certain and asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
American National did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not clear what prompted the Galveston, Texas-based insurer to explore a sale.
Some financial advisers have been encouraging corporate owners to speed up asset sales ahead of a proposed hike in capital gains and inheritance taxes put forward by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.
American National offers a variety of products, including life, health and property and casualty (P&C) insurance, as well as annuities, according to its website.
Such diversification has gone out of favor in the insurance industry, where many executives argue it is more profitable to focus on a specific area. American International Group (AIG), for example, has said it will spin its life and retirement business into a new public company.
American National trades at a valuation of 0.51-times price-to-book, indicating the market is discounting its worth.
Meanwhile, P&C-focused peers Progressive Corp and Hanover Insurance Group trade at 3.61-times and 1.57-times, respectively, according to Refinitiv data.
The profitability of insurers took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, as claims rose as a result of the economic disruption.