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February, 2020

After what was a very busy January for sector M&A in general insurance, February was much more muted with fewer than a dozen UK transactions announced. The landmark deal in the month was of course Searchlight Capital’s investment in broking consolidator Global Risk Partners, which was announced early in the month and we reported on in the January newsletter.

In broking, Bollington Wilson announced two acquisitions, picking up Harrogate-based trade credit specialist Prophet Trade Credit and Sutton Coldfield-based commercial broker CLA (Risk Solutions). Private equity firm Inflexion first backed the buyout and merger of Bollington and Wilsons in November 2017. It made no acquisitions during 2018-19 but has already announced three deals during 2020.

In personal lines, current consolidator of reference Ardonagh acquired motorcycling specialist Bennetts from Saga for a reported £26m, the same price Saga was reported to have purchased the business for when it acquired it from BGL Group in 2015. Ardonagh already owns motorcycle specialist Carole Nash. Family-owned N&W Investment, the owner of High Net Worth specialist Stanhope Cooper and MGA Renovation Underwriting, acquired London-based Insurance Tailors, adding around £2.5 million of GWP.

Among the PE-backed consolidators serial acquirer PIB Group announced its 26th deal with the acquisition of Croydon-based BK Insurance Brokers, an independent brokerage focused on the property, corporate, private clients and SME sectors, and ECI-backed Clear Insurance acquired Light Indemnity Solutions, a London-based right to light specialist.

In Insurtech, there were three notable UK fundraising transactions with data & analytics business Concirrus raising $20 million in a Series B round, subscription-based SME broker Digital Risks securing $10.4 million and AI business Tractable adding $25 million in a Series C round.

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.