French insurer nears sale of UK businesses

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The Independent Online

Bids of around £300m for the UK arm of Groupama are due this week, but the French insurer might be forced to sell-off the business piecemeal.

Groupama, one of the largest mutual insurers in the world, has assets of around €90bn. It put the UK businesses, which write premiums in property, casualty and motor insurance of around €600m a year, up for sale last month. They include Ryan Insurance, Bollington, Lark, and Clinicare.

The group's UK chief executive Francois-Xavier Boisseau said that a "cheap sale was out of the question".

However, Mike Lamb of Deutsche Bank – one of the most senior deal-makers in the City and the person hired to oversee the sale – seems to have found it difficult to secure one bidder for the whole array of firms.

Bids are due in on Tuesday, it is understood, and Zurich, Axa, Allianz and several private equity houses are considering making offers.

But Lark and Bollington are both believed to be in the advanced stages of management buyouts with funding from private equity.

This is far from Groupama's favoured option, but it may have to accept the deals on the table.

RSA is thought to have taken a look at the bid and then stepped back from the process. It signalled last week that since its UK motor arm was breaking even at best, it preferred to seek opportunities overseas.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment.