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Aviva sets Feb deadlines for $6.6 billion disposals in France, Poland -sources

Pamela Barbaglia and Carolyn Cohn
·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: A logo sits on the window of the Aviva head office in the city of London

By Pamela Barbaglia and Carolyn Cohn

LONDON (Reuters) - Aviva has set late February deadlines to receive final offers for its operations in France and Poland - a deal that would help the British insurer streamline operations and raise an overall 5.5 billion euros ($6.67 billion), sources told Reuters.

Aviva has secured indicative bids from industry heavyweights and wants to wrap up the sale of both units by the end of the first quarter, three sources said on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential.

The London-based insurer, led by boss Amanda Blanc, is expected to sell its French business for about 3.5 billion euros while the Polish operations are valued at roughly 2 billion euros, the sources said.

The sale is central to Blanc's turnaround plan aimed at shifting the insurer's focus to core operations in Britain, Canada and Ireland after prolonged share price weakness has irked investors.

Aviva declined to comment on the sale but confirmed it was exploring strategic options across its portfolio, including in France and Poland.

Dutch insurer NN Group, Italy's Assicurazioni Generali and Germany's Allianz are among a group of bidders vying for Aviva's Polish business and facing a deadline of Feb. 26 to submit final offers, the sources said.

French mutual insurer Groupe Macif is dominating the French auction with a 3.5 billion euro indicative bid, and is working on a final proposal ahead of a Feb. 22 deadline, two of the sources said.

The bidding field for Aviva France also includes investment firm Eurazeo and life insurance specialist Athora, which is backed by U.S. private equity investor Apollo, the sources said.

Eurazeo made a non-binding offer of around 3.2-3.3 billion euros in early January and is keen to clinch a deal that would give it access to Aviva's investment portfolio and boost returns with alternative investments, one of the sources said.

Eurazeo, NN Group, Allianz and Generali declined to comment, while Macif and Athora were not immediately available.

FRENCH HURDLES

Aviva faced stiff opposition in France when it tried to strike a deal with a consortium of Allianz and Athora last year.

Their joint offer prompted concern over job security and strategy as French regulators, unions and Aviva's local partner Association Française d'Epargne et de Retraite (Afer) sought to halt the sale.

Allianz remains interested in the general insurance assets of Aviva France's business, another source said, and may still team up with the likes of Athora or Eurazeo.

Generali, Europe's third-biggest insurer, is also waiting on the sidelines as it wants control of the same assets, two sources said.

The Italian insurer could try to pursue an alliance with Eurazeo should the French investment firm led by boss Virginie Morgon emerge as a winner, they said.

Eurazeo is bidding for the whole of Aviva France but its focus is on the life insurance side, which makes up around three-quarters of the unit's revenue, a source familiar with its strategy said.

If successful, the Aviva purchase could become the basis of a life insurance consolidation platform for Eurazeo, with the general insurance portion flipped to Generali or Allianz, this source said.

Aviva is also in the process of selling the rest of its Italian business and is reviewing some of its international joint ventures, including in Turkey and India, after pulling out of Indonesia last year.

($1 = 0.8249 euros)

(Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia and Carolyn Cohn in London; Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, Gwenaelle Barzic, Alex Huebner and Toby Sterling; Editing by Barbara Lewis, Jason Neely, Jan Harvey and David Gregorio)