Swiss Re plans $4.5bn IPO for UK unit to help expansion

Zurich-based reinsurance company wants to access additional capital to do more deals

Swiss Re's UK life insurance business is Britain's sixth largest life insurer. Reuters
Swiss Re's UK life insurance business is Britain's sixth largest life insurer. Reuters

Swiss Re is pressing ahead with plans to float its $4.5 billion UK life insurance business in London to put it under a more favourable regulatory regime and give it easier access to capital to fund its expansion.

ReAssure, Britain's sixth largest life insurer, intends to list at least a 25 per cent stake, it said on Friday.

The insurer has $87.3bn of assets under administration and focuses on so-called closed book policies that are shut to new customers.

Under the flotation plans, Swiss Re, the world's second-largest reinsurer, would cut its stake in ReAssure to below 50 per cent from 75 per cent now. Japan's MS&AD Insurance Group intends to keep its holding at 25 per cent after the initial public offering, ReAssure chief executive Mark Hodges told during a media call.

Mr Hodges said the deal would "allow ReAssure to pursue growth going forward, knowing that we have two anchor shareholders".

The listing would enable ReAssure to operate under the European Union's Solvency II regime, which had less onerous capital requirements than Switzerland's regime, ReAssure chief financial officer Ian Patrick told the call.

Although Britain may leave Solvency II after it quits the EU, it is expected to retain a similar regime.

Scale is increasingly important in an industry where insurers are struggling to pay guaranteed returns for life insurance policies due to record-low interest rates.

ReAssure's publication of the registration document for the IPO will be the first step towards a listing, Swiss Re said. The final timing of the IPO has not been decided, Mr Hodges added.

Britain's planned departure from the EU has crimped investment and deterred some companies from listing in London, but Mr Hodges said it wasn't an issue.

"Markets have been a bit choppy, at the end of the day we fundamentally think this is a sound business."

Zurich Cantonal Bank analyst Georg Marti said based on the price paid by anchor shareholder MS&AD for its stake, the total value of ReAssure was around $4.5bn, adding the IPO "could allow Swiss Re to deploy capital to more higher yielding businesses like life and non-life reinsurance".

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and UBS are the joint global coordinators, while BNP Paribas and HSBC will act as joint book-runners in the flotation.

Published: June 8, 2019 08:00 AM


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