Skandia, Britannic and now Generali The turmoil which swept the European banking sector appears to extend to the insurance. Even if it would be premature to speak of a return of the large manoeuvres area is in is still stage rumours on Generali , we feel come a thrill. Analysts agree also that the conditions are met so that a consolidation movement resumes. And markets are beginning to become aware.
In the top of the biggest boosts since the beginning of the year, there are indeed many insurers may change control in the coming months. It is Swedish Skandia ( 23 since January 1st), courted by the Group of Old Mutual South African origin, the Swiss company La Bâloise ( 24), which the President recognizes that it is not intended to remain independent of AGF ( 20), pending a resumption of the minority by Allianz, or Friends Provident ( 12) and Prudential ( 7), two British companies regularly subject to speculation.
The advantage of size
"Since the end of the 1990s, it was not a single operation of large scale in Europe, remind analysts in CSFB." The managements of the insurance companies, investors, were terrorized by the idea of merger-acquisition, taking into account the problems encountered by the sector. The few operations that occurred were therefore limited size and scope. "But after four years to the rationalization of the activities, insurers should regain appetite for external growth operations, while financial markets seem willing to better welcome them. "Time has come for companies that have managed to avoid air holes begin to horizon", summarized Credit Switzerland First Boston analysts. AXA, Generali, ZFS, Aviva and Allianz are considered for the title as the most credible predators.
Many factors lead to a return of the mergers and acquisitions: profitability approach of its peaks, insurers are beginning to have excess own funds, inadequacy of reserves problems are being resolved, the European Union encourages the reconciliations, the recovery of the sector is considered to be rather reasonable...
Studies also show that M & A activity tends to leave when the combined ratios (which measure the technical viability of insurers) are optimal. As if, when companies perceive the reversal of cycle of rates, which is currently the case, they recall that be larger is a good way to negotiate the best rates and the guarantees of contracts with clients.
For analysts, three barriers may however delay such a movement. First, a sharp rebound in equity markets, which would reduce the gap between the strongest and weakest. Then, the issue of price, the insurers are not yet ready to loosen the purse in the current context. Credit Switzerland made bitter experience when it launched sales Winterthur, which will be finally placed on the stock exchange.
Finally, the adoption of IFRS, which "will occupy the agenda of financial managers for a while yet, which could reduce the likelihood of major operation in the short term," according to ING. That said, the new accounting standards should promote term comparisons between different actors, and so better identify prey...