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Analyst Sees ‘Great Restructuring’ of Life Industry

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Sean Dargan, a Wells Fargo & Co. securities analyst, says European insurers are willing to give buyers reasonable prices for blocks of U.S. annuity business.

The insurers have run-off blocks that could be “transacted at below book value,” Dargan writes in a preview of the upcoming earning season. “We expect to see more deals in particular within the fixed annuity space going forward.”

In another commentary, on speculation about possible deals involving Generali and Manulife Financial Corp., Dargan writes that “the ‘Great Restructuring’ of the global life insurance industry continues apace.”

(Related: 5 Ways an AXA U.S. Spinoff Could Affect You)

The number of mergers and acquisitions in the life sector was relatively low in 2016 and earlier this year, but “deal activity seems to have picked up,” Dargan writes.

Dargan cites recent deal announcements involving Reinsurance Group of America Inc., Wilton Re and Fidelity & Guaranty Life as evidence of sellers’ interest in closing sales.

RGA and Wilton Re appear to have picked up blocks of business for prices below book value, or estimated value based on financial statement figures, Dargan writes.

The group acquiring Fidelity & Guaranty appears to be paying more than book value, but that could be partly because Fidelity & Guaranty agreed to get investment management services from the group’s affiliates, Dargan writes.

Dargan wrote the commentaries in connection with the start of earnings release season for the second quarter.

Publicly traded U.S. life insurers begin posting their second-quarter results next week. 

In addition to keep an eye out for sales of companies and large blocks of business, Dargan is watching life insurers for signs of the effects of low interest rates, rising stock prices and flat dollar-to-Yen exchange rates.

Low rates may hurt some of life insurers this quarter, but high stock prices could help some life insurers’ asset-management units, Dargan says.

— Read Icahn Said to Ease Off Demand for AIG Breakup Under New CEO on ThinkAdvisor.


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