Signage is displayed outside Allstate Corp. campus in Northbrook, Illinois, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. Allstate Corp. is scheduled to release earning figures on February 1. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg (Photo: Christopher Dilts/BB)

Allstate Corp., the automobile and home-insurance giant, is exploring a sale of its fixed annuities business, which stopped selling new policies about five years ago, people familiar with the matter said.

The insurer is working with financial advisers to seek buyers for the “closed block,” which has a book value of $4 billion to $5 billion, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. It isn’t clear how much the unit might fetch in a sale, though annuities businesses tend to sell at a discount to book value.

(Related: RGA Sees Strong Competition for Annuity Reinsurance Deals)

A representative for Allstate, based in Northbrook, Illinois, didn’t have an immediate comment.

Allstate’s shares were little changed at $92.30 at 2:34 p.m. in New York trading Thursday, giving the company a market value of about $32 billion.

Property-casualty and life insurers have been steadily selling blocks of annuities or striking reinsurance deals to unload the policies, which people buy to ensure a steady stream of income after they retire. It’s hard to make money on annuities when interest rates are low and securities markets are volatile. Insurers have been particularly eager to get rid of old policies written before the 2008 financial crisis that promised generous payouts.

Willing Buyers

They’ve found willing buyers in private equity firms and insurers such as Athene Holding Ltd. and Resolution Re that specialize in managing complex, long-term liabilities.

Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. closed the sale of most of its annuity unit in May, while Manulife Financial Corp. announced reinsurance deals to cede some of its annuities this month.

Allstate has been retreating from life insurance for more than a decade. It struck a reinsurance deal to offload its variable annuity business in 2006 and sold a life insurer in 2013. It also said that year that it would stop selling its own fixed annuities, though its agents continue to sell policies issued by other insurers.

—With assistance from Katherine Chiglinsky.

— Read Life Re Giants Crowd Out Other Players: Moody’son ThinkAdvisor.

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