BE Group, an investor group fronted by former financial services dealmakers, is exploring the feasibility of a fresh pursuit of Belgian insurer Ageas after a previous attempt was rebuffed, people familiar with the matter said.

The consortium has been speaking to banks to gauge the availability of financing and discuss the structure of a potential deal, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Deliberations are ongoing, and there’s no certainty that BE Group will make an offer, according to the people.

Shares of Ageas were up 0.9% at 10:31 a.m. Tuesday in Brussels, giving the company a market value of about 9.1 billion euros ($10.3 billion), while the benchmark BEL 20 index gained 1.2%. It’s unclear whether BE Group will be able to pull together enough funding to mount a serious bid for Ageas. It would be a large deal for the consortium, which has never announced a transaction of this size.

Ageas said in September 2020 it had received an approach from BE Group and decided not to engage after a thorough analysis. A representative for Ageas declined to comment, while an official at BE Group didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Betaville blog reported Nov. 22 that Ageas was rumored to be back in play, saying the identity of the mystery suitor was unclear.

An acquisition of Ageas would rank as one of the largest deals in the European financial services industry this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. BE Group’s backers include ex-Lazard Ltd. banker Mark Pensaert, who’s now a member of the Rabobank NA supervisory board, and Alexandre Kartalis, a director of investment firm Advanced Credit Solutions.

Pensaert was previously chief executive officer of boutique advisory firm Leonardo & Co. and chairman of investment banking at Alantra Partners SA, his LinkedIn profile shows. Kartalis has done stints at firms including Credit Suisse Group AG, Merrill Lynch & Co. and UBS Group AG, according to ACS’s website, which didn’t give his exact titles.

Brussels-based Ageas houses insurance assets previously owned by Fortis, the Belgian financial services giant that was bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis. It sells life and non-life insurance products in its home market as well as other parts of continental Europe, the U.K. and Asia.

While Ageas is seen as attractive due to its presence in Asia, it has been battling many of the same headwinds as other insurers, including low interest rates and the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

A takeover would likely need the support of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. The Belgian insurer said in September that Fosun had increased its interest in Ageas to just over 10%.

–With assistance from Ruth David and Myriam Balezou.

Photograph: The Ageas logo sits on flags flying outside the insurer’s headquarters in Brussels. Photo credit: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images.

Topics Mergers & Acquisitions Carriers