Fosun Said to Pursue Deal for Swiss Re’s Aurora in the U.S.

Aug 19, 2014 5:09 am ET

(Updates with Swiss Re shares in sixth paragraph.)

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Fosun International Ltd., the investment arm of China’s biggest closely held conglomerate, is in talks to acquire a U.S. life insurance arm of Swiss Re Ltd., people with knowledge of the matter said.

Fosun is seeking to buy Aurora National Life Assurance Co. for $400 million to $500 million, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. A deal hasn’t been reached and the talks could still fall through, said the people.

Zurich-based Swiss Re began working with Barclays Plc last year to sell Aurora, a life insurance and annuity provider based in Hartford, Connecticut, the people said. Wilton Re Holdings Ltd., the Bermuda-based reinsurer that’s backed by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, had also expressed interest in Aurora, one person said.

Fosun Group, backed by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, is on an acquisition spree that’s ranged from Australian energy companies to New York city office buildings. The group, which considers insurance is a key line of business, yesterday said it will acquire 20 percent of Ironshore Inc., the Bermuda-based insurer which filed in June for a U.S. initial public offering.

Fosun International, which is publicly traded in Hong Kong, is the primary vehicle for these acquisitions. Fosun also operates a life insurance joint venture in China with Prudential Financial Inc., and acquired 80 percent of Portugal’s Caixa Geral de Depositos SA’s insurance unit in January.

Insurer Sales

Swiss Re rose as much as 1.4 percent, the biggest gain in more than seven months. The benchmark Swiss Market Index advanced 0.5 percent at 11:07 a.m. local time.

Representatives for Swiss Re, Fosun, Canada Pension Plan, and Barclays all declined to comment on the sale of Aurora. Ray Eckert, a spokesman for Wilton Re, didn’t return a call seeking comment on its interest in Aurora.

Swiss Re, which is based in Zurich, has been selling assets as it restructures its global operations. Aurora had more than $3 billion in assets and serviced more than 88,000 life and annuity policies at June 2012, according to its website. It was part of SRLC America Holding Corp., which Swiss Re sold in 2012 to London-based insurer Prudential Plc.

Insurers have been shedding annuities and other life- insurance products to free capital and simplify their businesses. Voya Financial Inc. struck a deal last week to transfer term life policies with a face value of about $100 billion to Reinsurance Group of America Inc.

CPPIB, Canada’s largest pension fund manager, bought Wilton Re for $1.8 billion in June. Wilton, which specializes in buying run-off businesses from insurers, this month acquired Continental Assurance Co. from CNA Financial Corp.

--With assistance from Scott Deveau in Toronto.