A large United Kingdom insurer has agreed to pay $2.9 billion in cash for a major player in the U.S. equity-indexed life insurance and annuities market.

AmerUs Group Company, Des Moines, Iowa, has agreed to let Aviva P.L.C., London, acquire it, AmerUs says in a statement.

Aviva, London, generates the equivalent of about $63 billion in sales per year. The company made an unsuccessful effort earlier this year to acquire another large U.K. financial services company, Prudential P.L.C., London, the parent of Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Lansing, Mich.

AmerUs generated $191 million in net income in 2005 on $1.6 billion in revenue. The deal price, which amounts to $69 per share, is about 20% higher the average closing price of AmerUs shares for the past 30 days, AmerUs says.

The directors of Aviva and AmerUs already have approved the deal.

Aviva still must get approval from AmerUs shareholders and government regulators before it can complete the deal. It hopes to close on the acquisition by the end of the year, according to AmerUs.

If Aviva succeeds at completing the AmerUs acquisition, it plans to combine its U.S. operations with those of AmerUs and to locate the headquarters of the merged operations in Des Moines, AmerUs said.

Thomas Godlasky, now chairman of AmerUs, would become president of the U.S. operations, AmerUs says.

Aviva Group Chief Executive Richard Harvey says he likes the idea of uniting Aviva’s resources with AmerUs’s U.S. distribution networks.

“This acquisition establishes a leadership position within a key segment of the world’s largest long-term savings market,” Harvey says.

Godlasky says AmerUs like’s Aviva’s global brand recognition and AA credit rating.

“The combination of AmerUs and Aviva will open new opportunities for our producers and customers by providing a broader product portfolio,” Godlasky says.