Aegon may buy GRE life business

AEGON, the Dutch insurance giant, is in exclusive talks to buy the UK and Irish life business of Guardian Royal Exchange, whose future has been under review since GRE was taken over by AXA of France for pounds 3.5bn earlier this year.

AXA, which hopes to be in a position to confirm the sale when its UK arm, Sun Life & Provincial Holdings, announces half-year results on Thursday, is believed to be seeking about pounds 700m for the business.

However, sources close to the talks stressed yesterday that discussions were still going on and there was no guarantee there would be a deal. The argument appears to centre on price, with Aegon pushing for something closer to pounds 600m.

Aegon owns Scottish Equitable, the Scottish life and pensions business, and wishes to expand its UK life operations. The group recently completed the $9.7bn takeover of US group Transamerica, and has looked at a counterbid for Scottish Widows, which in June agreed to be taken over by Lloyds TSB.