September 5, 2018 / 11:53 AM / 17 days ago

UPDATE 1-French reinsurer Scor talks up independence after spurning Covea bid

* Scor’s board rejected 8.2 billion euro takeover offer

* Scor’s CEO says independence is key to success

* Scor says Covea lacks experience abroad and in reinsurance

By Inti Landauro

PARIS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - French reinsurer Scor on Wednesday justified its rejection a takeover bid from rival Covea, which valued the company at more than 8 billion euros ($9 billion), saying remaining independent would help performance.

CEO Denis Kessler said the fact Scor had its own listing and no controlling shareholder had allowed it to recover more rapidly after the insurance industry crisis that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

By being more directly responsible for handling risks, the company could better respond to customers, he said.

“(It’s) the secret recipe,” Kessler told investors and analysts during a presentation in Paris. “We are accountable for everything we do.”

French mutual insurer Covea, which has an 8.2 percent stake in Scor, had offered to buy Scor for 43 euros a share, representing around a 20 percent premium and valuing the company at more than 8.2 billion euros. But Kessler and his board rejected the offer saying it undervalued the company.

Scor said all members of the board had voted to reject the offer. Thierry Derez, Covea’s CEO, who sits on the Scor board, abstained to avoid any conflict of interest.

Kessler said Covea’s relative inexperience outside France, and its overall lack of experience in re-insurance, made it an unsuitable owner.

Covea, which has said it will not make a hostile bid for Scor, declined to comment on Kessler’s assessment.

Kessler, who has been CEO since 2002 and has overseen a 340 percent increase in its shares since 2009, said gross written premiums would grow between 5 percent and 7 percent in each of 2018 and 2019 and surpass 15 billion euros in 2018.

In response to the guidance, Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Panos Koffa reiterated his “buy” recommendation.

“The company’s healthy fundamentals remains in our view the main reason for investors to be invested in the story,” he said in a note to investors.

Covea said on Tuesday it was withdrawing its offer but also said it was still interested in buying the company in a friendly deal. It did not give any timeframe for any potential future bid.

Scor’s share price gained 9.5 percent on Tuesday following the news of the offer and its rejection by management. On Wednesday, the shares were down 2 percent.

Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Luke Baker and Jane Merriman

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