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January, 2020

The new year got off to a relatively lively start, with January seeing a number of transactions involving mainly commercial lines businesses at the smaller end of the size spectrum and one major deal as a consolidator was sold to a new private equity backer. In 2019 there was a marked increase in the number of smaller M&A transactions (values less than £5 million) in the sector, as consolidators faced up to a reduced supply of suitable mid-sized targets and instead targeted smaller businesses – we expect this trend to continue in 2020.

Among the broking consolidators, Global Risk Partners announced that it had acquired Leicestershire-based the Birrell Group to act as a new Midlands hub, Finch (itself part of Ethos) bought Richmond-based Shene Insurance, Broker Network-owned Lockyers acquired Bernard Saxon General Insurance Services (BSIS) and Aston Lark announced the acquisition of Isca Barum, an Exeter-based broker best known for its specialism in farm and smallholding insurance.

It was announced at the beginning of February that Global Risk Partners had itself changed ownership, following the acquisition of a majority stake in the business by Searchlight Capital Partners, providing further capital to support their continuing acquisition strategy.

In other broking deals, Somerset Bridge Insurance (the artist formerly known as Eldon Insurance Services …) sold Business Choice Direct, its SME and tradesman specialist, to Lloyd & Whyte. This was one of two acquisitions by Lloyd and Whyte during January, which also saw them take over control of property wholesale specialist Stride Insurance. Elsewhere, ex-Jelf CEO Phil Barton’s MRIB combined with La Playa, and Inflexion-backed Bollington acquired Ashgrove Insurance Services.

In personal lines, specialist motor broker Complete Cover Group was reported to have been sold to Sun Capital Partners, giving the business (which was formerly Allen & Allen) a new Private Equity backer almost eight years to the day since it was acquired by Darwin Private Equity.

Among insurers, Zurich-owned Navigators & General acquired a book of marine trade business from NMU; and Ecclesiastical Insurance (which also owns brokers Lycetts and SEIB) was revealed to have acquired a minority interest in the aforementioned Lloyd & Whyte.

In Insurance Services, acquisitive claims specialist Davies announced that it was moving into the legal services sector with the acquisition of Keoghs, an insurance-focused law firm.

Finally, underwriting agent CFC Underwriting announced it had acquired ThreatInformer, a business providing data to support brokers, underwriters and reinsurers in the Cyber market, Optio (the owner of Ascent Underwriting and Cove Programs) acquired Newbridge Risk Partners from Castel Underwriting, and Coverys European Holdings, an agency platform in the professional lines market, announced that it had acquired Italian MGA and Lloyd’s coverholder AEC Wholesale Group.