November 7, 2012 / 7:34 AM / in 5 years

UPDATE 1-Insurer Old Mutual expands in Nigeria

* To buy P&C unit of Ecobank for $20 mln

* Q3 life insurance sales 278 mln stg, down 10 pct

* To close Austrian, German units to new customers

LONDON, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Insurer Old Mutual unveiled a Nigerian acquisition as it pressed ahead with plans to grow in sub-Saharan Africa, and said it was closing its Austrian and German units to new customers.

Old Mutual, an Anglo-South African financial conglomerate with operations in about 30 countries, has agreed to buy the Nigerian property and casualty insurance unit of pan-African lender Ecobank for about $20 million, it said on Wednesday.

The company, which aims to boost its presence in sub-Saharan Africa to cash in on the region’s strong economic growth, also said its German and Austrian life operations would stop writing new business as they no longer met its investment criteria.

Old Mutual has over the past three years sold businesses including its Nordic life insurance unit to repay debt and dispel investor concerns that the group lacked focus and would be worth more broken up.

Old Mutual had life insurance sales of 278 million pounds, in the three months to Sept. 30, down 10 percent from a year earlier, and broadly in line with the 275 million pounds expected by analysts in a company poll.

Non-covered sales rose 4 percent to 3.76 billion pounds, ahead of the 3.2 billion pounds pencilled in by analysts.

Shares in Old Mutual, which quit its historic home of South Africa and listed in London in 1999, closed at 174 pence on Tuesday, valuing it at about 8.4 billion pounds.

The stock has risen 27 percent in the past year, outperforming a 6 percent increase for the FTSE 100 share index .

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