Axa sells former GRE's Irish life business to Royal Liver for pounds 55m

AXA SUN Life, the insurance group, will today announce it is selling the former Guardian Royal Exchange Irish life business to Royal Liver, the mutually owned insurance company, for around pounds 55m.

The sale follows the pounds 750m sale of GRE's UK life business to Aegon, the Dutch insurance group, earlier this year. The decision to offload the business will come as little surprise to the City.

Axa announced a strategic review of both the UK and Irish Life businesses when the group took over GRE for pounds 3.4bn in May. Both are sub-scale in their markets and would have required substantial investment to build them up to the point where they would have been viable competitors in those markets.

However, the fact that the purchaser is Royal Liver, a mutually owned business with no track record of acquisitions, will raise some eyebrows in the Square Mile.

The GRE deal catapulted Axa from 10th place to third place in the British insurance industry.

Axa has moved swiftly to integrate GRE's general insurance business with its existing operations. The group has announced plans to cut 2000 jobs and achieve pounds 65m of annual savings.

Axa has now largely paid off the cost of the GRE acquisition, although Mark Wood, the Axa Sun Life chief executive, has said that his priority is to bed down the newly acquired business.