February 20, 2020 / 8:09 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 2-Activist hedge fund Elliott builds stake in Dutch insurer NN Group

* Elliott said it has engaged in constructive talks

* Dutch law requires disclosure of stakes above 3%

* NN shares trade up 2% (Adds Elliott statement and share price reaction, detail)

By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Elliott Investment Management, U.S. billionaire Paul Singer’s activist hedge fund firm, has built up a 3.04% stake in Dutch insurer NN Group, a filing by the Dutch financial regulator AFM showed on Thursday.

Elliott’s move sent NN Group shares up 2% at 0815 GMT in Amsterdam, making them the biggest winner in the blue chip AEX index.

In a statement, Elliott said the investment reflected its belief “in the material and sustainable value-creation opportunity that exists at the company”.

The investor added it had teamed up with insurer Allianz’s former Chief Financial Officer Dieter Wemmer, who made a “material personal investment” in NN Group, in what it said was a constructive dialogue with NN’s management.

In the Netherlands, investors are required to disclose their stakes in companies if they exceed 3% of all outstanding shares.

A spokeswoman for NN Group, the Netherlands’ largest insurer, confirmed the company had been in contact with Elliott, but declined further comment.

Elliott fought a long battle in 2017 in the Netherlands over paints maker Akzo Nobel, which it unsuccessfully tried to force to agree to a takeover bid from U.S. rival PPG Industries.

Following a management change late last year, NN last week said it would start to buy back 250 million euros ($270 million) worth of shares annually and aimed to increase its dividend every year - sending it shares almost 11% higher on the day.

The insurer’s core profit rose 10% to 1.8 billion euros in 2019, following improved results from its casualty, health and property insurance businesses, while operating profit was up 25% in the last three months of the year.

NN Group has steadily increased its presence on the Dutch market by snapping up ailing rivals after being spun off by former parent ING in 2014 as a condition set by the European Commission for state aid received during the financial crisis.

In 2017, NN completed the 2.4 billion euros takeover of Delta Lloyd, while last year it agreed to buy the Dutch damage subsidiary of rival Vivat, then owned by China’s Anbang , for 416 million euros.

NN’s new Chief Executive David Knibbe was appointed in September last year, after his predecessor Lard Friese stepped down to join U.S.-focused rival Aegon.

$1 = 0.9274 euros Reporting by Bart Meijer Editing by Jan Harvey, David Holmes and Barbara Lewis

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