UPDATE 1-RSA names chief operating officer to oversee asset sales

Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:33am EDT

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LONDON, April 15 (Reuters) - British insurer RSA has appointed its emerging markets chief to the newly created role of chief operating officer to oversee sales of non-core businesses as the company shores up its balance sheet.

RSA is restructuring after an accounting scandal at its Irish arm and large weather-related insurance claims left it with a hole in its finances and major 2013 losses.

In a statement on Tuesday, RSA said Paul Whittaker, chief executive of emerging markets, will move into the role on May 1.

"This role reflects our new strategy and will provide essential co-ordination and focus for the successful delivery of the self-help measures underway to recapitalise the business," Group Chief Executive Stephen Hester said.

The company's difficulties culminated in a string of profit warnings in 2013 and the departure of a number of senior figures, including chief executive Simon Lee who was replaced this year by former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Hester.

RSA is looking to raise up to $2.7 billion in capital, about half of which will come from disposals and money saved by scrapping its dividend, with the rest put up by shareholders through a rights issue this month.

RSA, best known in Britain for its More Than home and motor insurance brand, has already started making disposals, targeting around 300 million pounds in 2014, and Hester has said more sales could follow in 2015.

The group is aiming to focus efforts on its core businesses in the UK and Ireland, Canada, Scandinavia and Latin America. Businesses in the Middle East, eastern Europe and Asia are under review for possible sale.

RSA said that Whittaker, who joined the firm in 2003 as Human Resources Director, will run the disposals drive and support its remaining emerging markets businesses. ($1 = 0.5976 British pounds) (Reporting by Chris Vellacott; Editing by Matt Scuffham and Louise Ireland)

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