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December, 2018

December was a relatively quiet month in the UK and it was in the USA that the major transactions took place, with potential implications for the UK insurance sector. In early January however the sale of Stackhouse Poland, the UK high net worth and commercial lines broker, to Arthur J Gallagher, woke things up a bit.

Acrisure, the US-based global broker, secured $2bn of investment commitment from a group of investors led by funds managed by Blackstone’s GSO Capital Partners and Tactical Opportunities businesses. The US business of Integro, with in excess of $150m of brokerage, was acquired by EPIC Holdings Inc, a diverse insurance distribution group, for an undisclosed sum.

December in the UK saw Arthur J Gallagher also announcing two further transactions, that of Pavey Group, an 83 staff commercial broker in the West of England and Property Claims Management Services, based in Tamworth. Stackhouse Poland acquired Property Insurance Initiatives, a UK real estate specialist founded in 2012. Global Risk Partners acquired Key Insurance Group, based in Preston, through County & Commercial Insurance Brokers. Broker Network acquired Specialist Insurance Agency, an £8m GWP commercial broker, through Finch Group and Glenavon Insurance, the Edinburgh-based commercial and personal lines broker, through Boyd & Company.

In Northern Ireland Prestige Insurance Holdings, backed by Capital Z, acquired Autoline Insurance, bringing together the two major personal lines brokers in the province and creating a business with over 700 employees and 28 offices.

Nexus Group acquired the Hiscox Global Flying book of business and SEIB acquired the Greenwood Moreland book of equine business.

November, 2018

Announced transactions were from Stackhouse Poland who acquired Symmetry Private Insurance Limited, a high net worth specialist based near Basingstoke in Hampshire and from Miles Smith, backed by Pollen Street, who acquired The Underwriting Exchange, a Lloyd’s broker, and its sister company London Ireland Market Exchange, a Dublin-based managing general agent.

At a more modest level Yutree, a Newmarket-based commercial lines broker, acquired Real Insurance Solutions, a Cambridge-based broker, Helios Underwriting Plc announced it is to acquire Advantage DCP Limited, a provider of underwriting services and a limited liability member of Lloyd’s and Sedgwick acquired Sproule Graham, a West of Ireland loss adjuster.

Palatine Private Equity completed the secondary buyout of CET UK, a specialist provider of infrastructure and property assurance services which employees over 470 staff.

Hyperion are likely to feature again on the acquisition trail, with the raising of $115m of additional debt finance to increase their acquisition war chest, having started 2018 with $300m and having retained their Moody’s debt rating of B2.

In InsurTech, Aviva agreed to acquire a majority stake in Neos Ventures, the home focused, smart technology insurance provider, subject to regulatory approval.

While not strictly M&A related, we also note that Qudos Insurance, an unrated Danish insurance company who wrote UK business, went into liquidation and engaged with Darag, a legacy specialist to de-risk the position.

October, 2018

October was a relatively quiet month for the sector with potentially the most interesting transaction coming at the end of the month, that of the sale by Ardonagh of its £150m GWP, 250 employee MGA business, Geo Underwriting, for £31m to Arch Insurance Europe. The month started with GRP announcing that County Group had acquired Rahon Insurance, a Derby-based commercial broker, followed by Bruce Stevensonannouncing its acquisition of Aberdeenshire-based Youngson Insurance Consultants and Invicta Insurance Services acquiring Griffin Insurance Services’ business, a 10 employee Deal-based personal and commercial lines broker.

Stackhouse Poland announced the acquisition of Title & Covenant Brokers, an £8m GWP legal indemnity broker based in Borehamwood from Title Investments. Gallagher acquired Portmore Insurance Brokers, a Southampton-based mid-market commercial broker with 32 employees, Miller acquired Alston Gayler and Co, an independent Lloyd’s broker with income of £18.2m in 2017 and 60 employees. NSM Group, the owner of Vantage Insurance, acquired Xpekt, a UK motor MGA and Reich Group acquired Stockport-based LJM Insurance Brokers, a £4m GWP commercial broker.

BGC Partners Inc, the US-based global brokerage and financial technology company, acquired Ed Broking, the London-based reinsurance and speciality broker, which will operate alongside Besso which BGC acquired in 2017. Integro Group acquired Precision Underwriting, an Irish MGA specialising in solicitors’ professional indemnity. Munich Re sold MSP Underwriting to Cincinnati Financial for £102m, MSP operates as Beaufort Underwriting which underwrites for Lloyd’s syndicate 318. 

McLarens, a leading global insurance services provider, announced a new investor, Lee Equity Partners, a US-based mid-market private equity investor, replacing Altamont Capital. The Direct Group’s claims department was sold by Ardonagh to loss adjuster Davies Group for up to £36m.

September, 2018

September was a month for significant deals with the headline-grabbing transaction being Marsh & McLennan agreeing to buy Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group for £4.3bn, a 33.7% premium to the previous day's closing price. This followed the announcements earlier in the month that Carlyle Group had acquired majority ownership of Sedgwick, the claims group, in a transaction valued at c.$6.7bn and Hanover Insurance Group had agreed to sell Chaucer Insurance, its Lloyd’s speciality underwriting unit to China Reinsurance for $950m. At the end of the month, Ardonagh ended speculation and announced its acquisition of Swinton, the high street personal lines broker, from Covea, the French mutual insurer, for £165m. Covea were also reported to have had their unsolicited $9.6bn offer for Scor SE, the French reinsurer turned down.

The active UK acquirers were in action with Aston Lark acquiring Dover-based commercial broker Pharos Insurance Brokers, Broker Network acquired Yorkshire-based Lockyers with over £5m of GWP, Nexus Group acquired Altitude Risk Partners, an aerospace MGA, from Castell Underwriting Agencies, and GRP acquired U-Sure, the Cwmbran-based property specialist.

Ataraxia has been active since its transaction with MVP in July, backing the MBO of Thompson & Co, a West Midlands-based Marsh ProBroker network member and the MBO at Dixons Commercial Insurance Brokers based in St Albans. Tririme, the international subsidiary of US Risk based in London has acquired MGB Insurance Brokers, a professional liability specialist, from Manchester Underwriting Management.

Randall & Quilter announced its largest ever legacy deal with the acquisition from Axa of Global US Holdings, whose subsidiary Global Reinsurance Corporation underwrote P&C reinsurance for US regional and speciality insurance companies, for $80.5m. The parent company of AFL, the Lloyd’s broker, acquired New Jersey-based Zodiac, a MGA specialising in professional liability and entertainment and Thomas Miller acquired the marine focussed MGA and insurance services operations of Zeller Associates, based in Hamburg. The administrators of CBL Insurance Group sold UK-based European Insurance Services to Phenix Holdings Limited, a company that looks to be controlled by EIS management.

In the USA, Odyssey Investment Partners, the owner of Integro, is said to be exploring the sale of Integro’s US business, leaving it with the predominantly London-based operations, including recently acquired Tysers.

August, 2018

Two major transactions were announced in what would normally be a quiet month: Private equity firm Apollo Global Management announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire Aspen Insurance for $2.6bn, subject to regulatory approvals, and private equity firm Bain Capitalannounced it was in advanced talks with esure about a possible takeover for c. £1.2bn.  It was also reported that The Co-op Group was exploring the sale of its £331m income general insurance operations for about £300m.

Serial acquirers GRP, PIB Group and The Broker Network all completed transactions this month: GRP acquired Digney Grant in Northern Ireland via its hub, Abbey Bond Lovis; PIB Group acquired Wrightsure’s London Market non-motor book via Citynet Insurance Brokers;and The Broker Network acquired Manchester based MCM, an existing network member with other offices in Derry and Birmingham, as its seventh “regional powerhouse”.

Overseas trade buyers were also active; PSC Insurance Group, separate to its investment in B.P. Marsh, acquired 70% of Leicester-based Turner Insurance Services for £4m. The Verlingue Group acquired ICB Group, led by Neil Campling, to substantially increase its UK presence and work with its existing investment Finch to build a common entity.  U.S. Risk Insurance Group acquired London-based professional indemnity MGB Insurance Brokers from Manchester Underwriting Management and it will operate alongside Oxford Insurance Brokers and James Hampden International under the international subsidiary Trireme Insurance Group.

Travel & General Insurance Services completed its management buyout, backed by Mobeus Equity Partners, with an investment of £8.4m. Beat Capital Partners, a venture capital firm with investment backing from Neon Holdings, invested in cyber specialist Tarian, and Chord Re, a speciality reinsurance MGA, and merged with Paraline, a Bermuda-based insurance holding company and investor in £110m Lloyd’s syndicate 4242.

Finally, McLarens, the private equity-backed claims services provider, is understood to be working on a sale process to allow Altamont Capital Partners to realise its investment.

July, 2018

July was an active month despite the record temperatures. Early on PIB were active with two acquisitions, Wheatley Wright Group, which specialises in liability and associated risk focussed on the construction sector, based in Northamptonshire and Albany Childcare, a Glasgow-based specialist in childcare and nursery insurance. Trimulgherry Investments, another Peter Cullum investment vehicle with James McCaffrey, acquired the commercial business of the Hurst Group, creating a new broker Professional & Medical Insurance SolutionsCBC UK, a Lloyd’s broker backed by B.P. Marsh, acquired PBS Insurance, a general insurance broker based in Jersey. GRP acquired a majority stake in DCJ Group Insurance and Risk Management, the Chesterfield-based commercial broker, which will seek to accelerate its own growth through further acquisitions.

Minority Venture Partners acquired a material stake in Ataraxia from Stuart Randall which sees him retire from the business and will continue to support succession planning for its group brokers. Seventeen Group, in its fourth deal this year, acquired Everard Insurance Brokers, a West Malling-based specialist in marine and marine trades.

B.P. Marsh were active in their own right taking a 20% equity stake in ATC Insurance Solutions, a wide-ranging MGA in Australia. PE firm Capital Z invested in Prestige Insurance, the owner of Abbey Insurance Brokers and Prestige Underwriting Services in Northern Ireland. ECI Partners invested in The Clear Group, the London-based UK corporate and SME broker specialising in property and construction with in excess of £100m GWP. Bought by Many, having recorded £20m of GWP in the year to 31 March 2018, closed a series B funding round of £15m, backed by Commerz Ventures and Marsh alongside existing investors.

AmTrust Financial secured $350m backing from Madison Dearborn and Enstar to enable the company to go private, reducing the investment of Stone Point Capital and the Karfunkel-Zyskind familyAmWins, the US-focused wholesale distribution group and owner of THB in London, refinanced and increased its debt to a total of $590m, making its debt-to-EBITDA ratio 5.1x, and $330m will be used to pay a dividend. Liberty Mutual has been reported as having decided to sell Pembroke, its Lloyd’s platform and China Re are reported to be the front runner to acquire Chaucer from The Hanover Group.

June, 2018

June’s activity was down on May although Insuretech deals picked up. Gallagher returned to the UK acquisition scene, buying Risk Services (NW), a regional commercial insurance broker based in Chester. Ryan Specialty completed its acquisition of Lodestar Marine and announced that it had raised an additional $175m from the Canadian private equity firm Onex CorporationArdonagh Group raised a further £98.3m as speculation over the fate of Swinton continues.

Right Choice Insurance Services, a motor insurance broker led by Mike Joseph, secured private equity backing from LDC with an investment of £28m for a minority stake and RFIB'sowner, Risk Transfer Group, acquired Corporate Underwriting, a specialist marine underwriting agency, as part of its new strategy to grow revenue to £100m by 2021. Tokio Marine HCC agreed to acquire Qdos Contractor, part of The Qdos Group and Hyperion acquired a minority stake in Apollo Syndicate Management, a Lloyd’s managing agency managing syndicate 1969 and SPA 6133 with combined capacity of £260m.

Ardonagh's owners, Highbridge and MDP, acquired Health and Protection Solutions, a provider of health and wellbeing solutions to businesses and individuals, from AXAThe Warranty Group, which provides warranty insurance for Amazo'sn products, was acquired by Assurant, a rival firm, for $2.5bn.

In an interesting move PSC Insurance Group, the Australian-listed insurance group and owner of London-based Carroll & Partners and Alsford Page & Gems, made a £15.5m investment in B.P. Marsh & Partners, the AIM-listed insurance specialist venture capital investor. At the end of the month Trimulgherry Investments, established by Peter Cullum and James McCaffrey, acquired the commercial insurance broking business of Hurst Group, creating a new broker, Professional & Medical Insurance Solutions, specialising in products for doctors, dentists and professionals. CBC UK acquired PBS Insurance, a Jersey-based commercial broker.

Insuretech transactions included Shipowner’s acquiring a 33% stake in Jumar, an app development and legacy system moderniser. Laka, a crowd insurance pioneer, raised £1.1m of seed capital led by Tune Protect Group Berhad, and Marshmallow picked up $1.2m seed funding to provide car insurance to immigrants and expatriates, led by Passion Capital and Investec.

First half transactions maintained the upwards trend of 2017, with the volume of £5m-£25m value transactions being significantly higher than previous halves, reflecting the private equity-backed trade buyers being in full swing.

May, 2018

May was an active month in the sector with a wide variety of deals. The joint MDs of Walmsleys Commercial Insurance Brokers, Philip Wall and Steven Moore, completed their MBO, buying out majority shareholders Martin Bellamy and Michael Whittle, having raised their own funding and not using private equity capital. Coversure, led by Bob Darling, also completed an MBO backed by private equity firm Livingbridge. The franchise focused broker has over 90 offices throughout the UK with £116m GWP as well as the online wholesaler Policyfast and specialist underwriter CUL.

Fresh Insurance Services, a specialist non-standard personal lines broker, was bought by NSM Insurance in the USA, through its UK company, Vantage Holdings. Broker Network-owned Boyd & Company acquired Insureness, a £3.9m GWP broker in Musselburgh. Lexicon, a Peter Cullum-owned property MGA, acquired Oasis Property Insurance in Worthing as it builds itself as a mid-market property MGA. PIB Group completed its 15th deal with the acquisition of health and safety specialist, Lincsafe, based in Lincolnshire with 30 consultants and Ataraxia, an insurance focused investor, took a stake in Whitefield Insurance Services, the Ramsbottom-based broker, allowing Steven Foster to exit and Stephen Hopwood to continue leading the business.

The previously serial acquirers were back in action with Ardonagh’s owners, HPS Investment Partners and Madison Dearborn Partners, acquiring Capita Specialist Insurance Solutions and Professional Fee Protection. Gallagher, with its first acquisition for almost four years, acquired Risk Services (NW), a Chester-based commercial insurance broker. J.C. Flowers backed the merger of SSL Insurance Group with Endeavour, both specialist international brokers based in London. Charles Taylor InsurTech acquired Inworx, a Latin American-based insurance focused technology business as part of its strategy to establish itself as a global insurance technology provider of choice.

Sovereign Capital Partners realised its investment in Kindertons, a nationwide provider of outsourced accident and claims management services, with the sale to ExamWorks, a portfolio company of Leonard Green & Partners and providing Sovereign with a gross return of 8x.

April, 2018

A relatively quiet month started with White Mountains, the Bermuda-domiciled and New York-listed financial services group announcing its agreement to acquire a majority stake in NSM Insurance Group, the owner of Vantage Insurance in London. Broker Network were active again with the acquisition of Weald Insurance Brokers, a £14m GWP commercial broker in Kent, giving Broker Network its sixth hub. Jelf, in its first deal since being acquired by Marsh in 2015, acquired Clark Thomson, the eight branch SME commercial and personal lines broker, headquartered in Perth. Global Risk Partners was active with the acquisition of Thomas Sagar Insurances, a Bolton-based corporate, SME and personal lines broker with 24 employees and £9m GWP. Insurtech start-up Konsileo secured £2.7m of funding from technology investor Committed Capital. Sedgwick, the US-based and KKR-backed technology-enabled insurance business solutions group, completed the acquisition of Cunningham Lindsey, the global loss adjusting and claims management group with nearly 6,000 employees in 65 countries. Ardonagh, the holding company for Towergate and Autonet, announced that Autonet had acquired the renewal rights to a number of business lines from Ageas Retail, consisting of customers of Kwik Fit Insurance, Auto Direct, Cover Direct and Regal. Stackhouse Poland announced the acquisition of Honour Point, a corporate and global client focused brokerage, specialising in publishing, arts heritage property and charity sectors.

March, 2018