LONDON/NEW YORK French insurer Scor (SCOR.PA) has emerged as the lead bidder for Generali's (GASI.MI) U.S. life reinsurance business in a deal that could be announced shortly, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Generali USA is seen as an attractive asset by sector bankers who estimate the unit is worth about $800 million.
Generali, Scor and its financial adviser Deutsche Bank declined to comment. Generali's adviser Citigroup was not immediately available for comment.
Generali's new Chief Executive Mario Greco said he would raise 4 billion euros from non-core asset sales by 2015, to shore up capital and restore value, after long-standing CEO Giovanni Perissinotti was ousted by disappointed investors.
The Italian insurer is also seeking to dispose of its private bank BSI but potential buyers think it is worth less that its CHF 2.3 billion ($2.44 billion) book value.
Scor was bidding against Reinsurance Group of America (RGA.N) in the last round of the auction and is now expected to announce a deal with Generali shortly, the people said.
A spokeswoman for RGA was not immediately available for comment.
Scor became the second-largest U.S. life reinsurer after it acquired Transamerica Re from Aegon (AEGN.AS) for $912.5 million in 2011.
Acquiring Generali USA would be consistent with Scor's strategy to grow in the Americas and take advantage of the non-cyclical nature of the life insurance market.
The life market is seen as a promising area for insurers as a result of the growing distribution of life insurance products by banks and the aging of the populations of OECD member states.
Scor has doubled the number of its employees in the Americas since 2005 in order to support the high double-digit annual growth of the group in this area.
($1 = 0.9408 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Sophie Sassard and Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)