MILAN/PARIS Italy's biggest insurer Generali (GASI.MI) said on Tuesday that it had agreed to sell its U.S. life reinsurance business to France's Scor (SCOR.PA) for total proceeds of $920 million as part of its strategy to shed non-core assets.
The deal, under which Scor is paying 579 million euros ($750 million) in cash plus an additional amount for whatever the unit earns this year before the deal's expected completion in the second half, will make Scor the largest U.S. life reinsurer.
Generali said in its statement it estimates the unit's earnings to be $30 million this year up to the time of the closing, lifting the price paid the unit to just above $780 million.
Earlier this year Generali's new chief executive Mario Greco pledged to raise 4 billion euros from non-core asset sales by 2015 to shore up capital and restore value.
Europe's third-largest insurer is also seeking to dispose of its private bank BSI but potential buyers think it is worth less that its 2.3 billion Swiss franc ($2.4 billion) book value.
Gross proceeds from the U.S. sale, including the release of $140 million of collateral now locked in the business, are expected to total $920 million, Generali said in a statement, adding that the deal was expected to generate a capital gain of about $150 million.
Generali, which has been undergoing a radical transformation since Greco took office just under a year ago, said the deal would lift its Solvency 1 ratio, a measure of capital strength, by 1 percentage point.
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 is consistent with Scor's strategy of growing in the Americas and taking advantage of the non-cyclical nature of the life insurance market. Scor has doubled the number of its employees in the region since 2005 to support the high double-digit annual growth of the group there.
Scor, which was bidding against Reinsurance Group of America (RGA.N) in the last round of the auction, said it would finance the deal from its own funds and potential limited debt sale, without issuing new shares.
Generali was advised by Citigroup and Mediobanca on the deal, while Scor was advised by BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank. ($1 = 0.7675 euros)
(Reporting By Lisa Jucca and Christian Plumb; Editing by Greg Mahlich)