UPDATE 1-German insurance chief stabbed before staff meeting

Wed Dec 5, 2012 11:00am EST

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* Provinzial Nordwest CEO stabbed with screwdriver

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* Provinzial NW Germany's 2nd biggest public-sector insurer (Adds details, background)

By Elke Ahlswede

Muenster, Germany , Dec 5 (Reuters) - The chief executive of German public insurer and takeover target Provinzial Nordwest was stabbed on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with employees to discuss the future of the company.

Ulrich Ruether was taken to hospital after being stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver by a masked assailant in an underground parking lot, said employee works council leader Albert Roer. Police said he was released from hospital shortly afterwards.

It was not immediately clear if the attack was linked to the possible sale of the insurer to German market leader Allianz , which financial sources have told Reuters may be ready to offer more than 2.25 billion euros ($2.94 billion).

Ruether had been due to meet with employees on Wednesday, after media reports about a possible sale emerged late last week.

Muenster public prosecutors on Wednesday said they were aware of the attack and confirmed that Ruether was in hospital, but declined to give further details.

Services trade union Verdi on Wednesday said it knew of management plans to sell Provinzial Nordwest, Germany's second-biggest public sector insurer, to Allianz. The union said a 2.25 billion-euro price tag was credible.

Verdi had demanded a pledge from Provinzial NW's public-sector owners not to sell the insurer to Allianz, saying that 6,000 jobs could be at stake.

Germany's public sector banks and insurers have a special status under German law and traditionally have closed ranks to ward off any threat of influence from the private sector.

The union said a decision on whether to sell the insurer could be taken as early as next week.

Provinzial Nordwest, which is owned by regional savings banks and local government authorities, has around 3 million customers, with premiums largely balanced between property-casualty and life insurance businesses, at 1.6 billion euros and 1.4 billion euros respectively. ($1 = 0.7642 euros) (Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger, Matthias Inverardi and Jonathan Gould; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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