Posted on Oct 25, 2020 at 12:15 PM
Nervousness is mounting around the Aviva France sales project. The “privileged” negotiations initiated by the British insurance group to sell its French subsidiary to the tandem formed by the German insurance giant Allianz and the Bermudan insurer Athora, a subsidiary of the Apollo investment fund, expire at the end of October, from corroborating sources. A few days from the deadline, the unions of Aviva France and Afer, the powerful association of savings partner of the insurer, mobilize all their relays, including political, to trigger a barrage.
Other candidates are in ambush. The insurer Macif in the lead. If the French mutualist group has not been able to enter into discussions with Aviva, it is already working, according to our information, on a financing solution with Credit Suisse. The failure of its discussions with Matmut in 2016 did not get the better of its ambitions. Managed by the young Adrien Couret, the insurer shows a clear desire for development. This is evidenced by its merger with the Aésio group of mutuals, positioned in health and provident insurance.
Operation between 3 and 4 billion
With Aviva France, the heavyweight of automobile insurance would assert itself in non-life insurance for companies and would strengthen in life insurance. Contrary to other insurers, Afer’s euro funds – these contracts offering an increasingly expensive capital guarantee with low rates – would not scare the mutualist, less under pressure to use their own funds. than a “capitalist” insurer. Other assets of Macif, it has the support of the unions and its project would correspond to the expectations of Afer. However, an operation estimated between 3 and 4 billion euros remains to be financed.
Another tandem is eyeing the file. According to our information, the British investment fund CVC Capital Partners, which bought the Lyon insurance broker April last year, and Generali have joined forces to prepare an offer. In this configuration, the Italian insurer would take 30% of a holding company absorbing Aviva France, while taking over certain non-life insurance assets. The former boss of Aviva France, Philippe Maso, is advising the two candidates.
Afer in campaign against Athora
This potential opening of the game goes in the direction of Gérard Bekerman. Decided to weigh in the process, the president of Afer ruled in mid-October in “Les Echos” that his 760,000 members would suffer a “Hell” if their savings were to be managed since “A regulatory or tax haven” like Bermuda. The name of Athora is not released, but the circumstantial partner of Allianz, who pushes his pawns in Europe, is clearly targeted because it is in Bermuda that his beachhead is domiciled.
This exit, implicitly addressed to the French supervisor (ACPR) who will have to give his agreement to the transfer, moved even in the ranks of the majority. On Wednesday, several deputies from En Marche wrote to the Minister of Finance, Bruno Le Maire, saying “Worried” for the employment of 4,500 Aviva France employees, “ the savings of our fellow citizens ” and “The state budget”. Enough to satisfy the unions of Aviva France, who oppose ” a dismantling of the whole in a purely short-term financial perspective ”.
The two financial partners are in fact considering a separation of the French activities of Aviva. Non-life insurance would be retained by Allianz, while Athora would take over Afer’s savings activities and portfolio of € 55 billion. Largely made up of life insurance in euros, it is also known to have little margin and particularly generous for savers.
In a scenario, agitated like a red rag by its detractors, Athora could find its account there by managing the business in “run off” or extinction, with a very lean cost structure. The subject is closely followed on the market, even if some doubt the real possibility of splitting Aviva France as its agents work with Afer. Athora can count on Thomas Stoddard, its financial director recruited from Aviva at the end of 2019. And also on the pressure which increases on Amanda Blanc, the new boss of the British group, to demonstrate the refocusing that she announced in early August.