NU Online News Service, Sept. 25, 2003, 3:23 p.m. EDT – Fortis, Brussels, says it hopes to hold a public offering sometime in 2004 to spin off Fortis Inc., its U.S. insurance arm.

Fortis Inc. would change its name to “Assurant Inc.”

Assurant shares probably would trade on the New York Stock Exchange, Fortis says.

Fortis is planning the move because it believes Fortis Inc. is “non-core,” it wants to focus mainly on banking and insurance in Europe and Asia, and it hopes operating as a stand-alone company will help Fortis Inc. raise capital in North America, Fortis says.

Fortis intends to “carry out a gradual divestment of its entire ownership interest in Fortis Inc.,” Fortis says.

The only operations Fortis expects to keep in the United States are global banking operations that involve activities such as asset management and corporate banking.

The company’s U.S. insurance units sell health insurance, funeral insurance, employee benefits and products for buyers of automobiles and manufactured homes.