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UPDATE 1-Groupama says buys Turkish Guven for 350 mln lira

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ISTANBUL, June 27 (Reuters) - French insurer Groupama said on Friday it had bought Turkish insurers Guven Sigorta and Guven Hayat for 350 million lira ($287 million), strengthening its position in the Turkish market.

The purchases, from the TTKMB association of agricultural credit cooperatives, are the latest in a string of foreign acquisitions in Turkey’s fast-growing and fragmented insurance sector.

Guven Sigorta has a 2.4 percent share of the Turkish non-life insurance market, ranking it 13th, while Guven Hayat has 1.2 percent of the life insurance market, ranking it 15th.

Unlisted Groupama is one of France's top insurers and competes domestically with listed rivals AXA AXAF.PA and CNP CNPP.PA.

The French company is already active in the Turkish market, owning insurer Basak Sigorta, the 8th biggest non-life company. It also has a 30 percent stake in Gunes Sigorta GUSGR.IS.

Gunes Sigorta stock was up 1.86 percent in a broadly weaker market after the Groupama announcement.

“These company purchasees are completely in harmony with the fundamental goals of the group which is focused on organic growth and foreign growth,” Groupama said in a statement.

It said the group also aimed to strengthen its position in markets in southern, central and eastern Europe.

It added that the latest purchases were dependent on approval by the relevant authorities.

Among other current activity in the Turkish insurance sector, Yapi Kredi Bank YKBNK.IS plans to sell its insurance business Yapi Kredi Sigorta YKSGR.IS, while Vakifbank VAKBN.IS is looking to sell part or all of its shares in Gunes Sigorta. (Editing by Quentin Bryar)

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