NU Online News Service, Oct. 10, 2003, 12:43 p.m. EDT – Insurance companies announced 78 mergers and acquisitions in the third quarter, up from 48 in the third quarter of 2002, according to SNL Financial L.C., Charlottesville, Va.

Total insurance deal value soared to $14 billion, from $823 million, thanks to the announcement of three major deals: the acquisition of John Hancock Financial Services Inc., Boston, by Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto; the acquisition of MONY Group Inc., New York, by AXA S.A., Paris; and a move by a private investment group to acquire Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, New York, from General Electric Company, Fairfield, Conn.

SNL values the Hancock deal at $10.4 billion, the MONY deal at $1.5 billion and the Financial Guaranty deal at $1.8 billion.

The three big deals account for 98% of announced deal value for the third quarter, SNL says.

Insurance company acquirers have been paying an average of 100% of the target’s book value. The ratio is down from an average ratio of 125% in the second quarter of 2003. But the market is livelier than it was in the third quarter of 2002, when deal activity was so slow that SNL was unable to calculate a meaningful price-to-book ratio.