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December, 2019

As one might expect in a month that saw both a general election and people breaking for the festive period, sector M&A activity was relatively muted as 2019 came to a close with full year volumes of Insurance M&A down substantially on 2018. Announced M&A activity was solely on the distribution side of the market, with no insurer, MGA or Insurance Services transactions of note during the month.

Among the broking consolidators, GRP-owned Country & Commercial Insurance Brokers (CCIB) announced that it would acquire Barpax Associates, a Worcester-based agricultural specialist, Ethos-owned Saffron Insurance acquired Cambridgeshire-based Broker Network member Stuart & Co and Ethos directly acquired Hugh J Boswell, a Norfolk-based commercial broker that will become its tenth regional hub. PIB Group announced three acquisitions during the month, acquiring bad debtor protection specialist CMR Insurance Services, health & safety consultancy Sue Smith Ltd and Cooper Solutions, a specialist provider to the automotive retail industry with a portfolio of products that includes a daily rate insurance product to cover courtesy and demonstrator vehicles, provided in conjunction with PIB stablemate Cooke & Mason.

Among privately held brokers, C&C Insurance Brokers took control of Morris Biscomb & Co (trading as M&C Risk Solutions) and Scottish broker Greenwood Moreland acquired Tain-based J Moore & Co, a fellow Broker Network member.

In insurance technology, short term car insurer Cuvva announced that it had raised £15m in a series A funding round that included venture funds led by RTP Global, Breega and Digital Horizon, as well as existing venture investors and a number of angels, including Dominic Burke (JLT).

Lastly, in addition to the UK deals above, there were two notable Irish transactions. US private equity firms Madison Dearbron Partners and HPS Investment Partners, owners of the Ardonagh Group, were reported to have acquired a controlling interest in leading Irish Lloyd’s broker Arachas Corporate Brokers for €250m from Sovereign Capital Partners and Aston Lark made its second Irish acquisition of 2019 with the purchase of Wright Insurance Brokers, a specialist commercial and transport broker.

November, 2019

On the basis that the festive season invariably makes December a difficult month in which to finalise a transaction, for anyone looking to get a deal announced before the end of the calendar year November is a good month in which to do it. As it turned out, there was a large volume of Insurance M&A announced in the month, although the overall value of that M&A was relatively muted, with an absence of any landmark deals.

In broking, private equity and PE backed buyers continue to drive consolidation. Serial acquirer Global Risk Partners announced that it had agreed to buy high-end property broker Gauntlet, whose founder Harry Fitzalan Howard will remain with the business as Chairman. Pollen Street backed Specialist Risk Group, owners of Miles Smith, made its second acquisition in as many months with jewellers’ block specialist David Codling & Associates. Tasker Insurance Group acquired Worthing-based Vantage Professional Risks, specialising in the medical and healthcare sectors and market leading rent protection broker Barbon Insurance announced that they had agreed to merge with Let Alliance, creating a market leader in the provision of protection solutions and services for letting agents and landlords.

Private equity funds and businesses backed by such funds are of course not the only parties making acquisitions in the broking market and November saw a number of other buyers announcing deals. Listed Australian group PSC Insurance, who recently acquired Lloyd’s broker Paragon, made a further wholesale broking acquisition with a deal for Carroll Insurance Group. Specialist home insurance provider The Plan Group made its first acquisition with a deal to buy Kingswood Insurance Brokers, who operate the Pedal Cover Plus brand. Ticket refund protection specialist TicketPlan was acquired by phone and gadget scheme specialist Pier Insurance and taxi specialist John Paton (trading as Patons Insurance) acquired fellow taxi business Shield Insurance Consultants, which trades as Cabshield. In another interesting transaction, Radius Payment Solutions announced that it had acquired a majority stake in specialist transport broker The Burley Group. Radius is best known as the group behind the telematics and fuel card brands Kinesis and UK Fuels.

There has been a marked increase in M&A activity among underwriting agents in 2019 and November saw MGA Barbican Protect being acquired by US-based wholesale broker H.W. Kaufman, who will rebrand the business as Burns & Wilcox, and AXA XL acquiring Secure Legal Title, a Lloyd’s coverholder specialising in cover for legal risks in property transactions and with whom AXA XL already had a longstanding relationship.

In insurance technology and services, over 50s travel specialist Staysure announced it had acquired a controlling interest in Eclipse Finance Holdings, the owner of price comparison business and the RAC announced it had taken a strategic stake in Wrisk, with which it is trialling a mileage-based car insurance product. Listed vehicle hire business Northgate PLC also announced an all-share merger with accident management specialist Redde PLC in a combination expected to create a market-leading automotive services group and delivering c.£10 million of annual cost synergies.

Finally, it was reported that Arthur J Gallagher has agreed heads of terms on an agreement to increase its ownership interest in reinsurance broker Capsicum Re from 20% to 100%.

October, 2019

Perhaps not unsurprisingly in a month that had for some time been anticipated as ending with Britain’s exit from the EU, there was a notable absence of large-scale insurance M&A during October. A number of smaller deals however did get done, again demonstrating that political turmoil has had a very limited impact on domestic M&A volumes at the smaller end of the market.

In broking, acquisition-hungry consolidators backed by private equity remain active. Goldman Sachs-backed Aston Lark announced it would acquire Protean Risk, a Lloyd’s broker focused on the investment industry and Pollen Street-owned Specialist Risk Investments (SRIL) added Square Mile Broking to its portfolio, which includes both Miles Smith and the Underwriting Exchange.

A number of the consolidator-owned broking vehicles also announced new acquisitions, including GRP’s South Eastern hub Green Insurance Group acquiring Kent-based Millards Insurance Services, Verlingue-owned Finch acquiring Martinez & Partners (trading as M&P Insurance Solutions) in Hampshire and Ethos-backed Weald Insurance buying Eastbourne-based Cronin Underwood.

Several smaller brokers were also active. Buckinghamshire-based commercial broker and Brokerbility member Luker Rowe acquired Trident Insurance Brokers, South West-based PSP Group acquired nearby neighbour Paul Hicks Insurance Services, M.S. Macbeth acquired Cassey Miller James (trading as CMJ) and newly independent Noble Marine added specialist underwriting agent Yachtline.

Listed specialist private equity investor B.P. Marsh & Partners announced that it was backing newly launched Lloyd’s marine broker Lilley Plummer Risks with a £1 million minority investment and in an all-share deal Tedaisy Insurance Group and Intrinsia Insurance Group announced that they would combine under the Tedaisy umbrella, bringing together four commonly controlled trading entities (Alpha Underwriting, Practice Cover, Intrinsia Brokers and Intrinsia Claims) managing c.£25m of GWP.

Finally, it was reported that Tesco plans to take full control of its insurance business by buying out the 50.1% stake it does not already own in Tesco Underwriting from longstanding insurance partner Ageas UK.

September, 2019

A number of notable transactions were announced in September, not least a rare public to private (“PTP”) takeover with the announcement that Jewel Bidco, a company formed on behalf of funds managed by US private equity firm Lovell Minnick Partners, had made a recommended cash offer for listed professional services group Charles Taylor plc. The offer values the business at approximately £261m and represents a 34% premium to the previous day’s share price.

 In another sizeable transaction that received relatively little media coverage, Lloyd’s broker Integro Insurance Brokers, trading as Tysers, announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Risk Transfer Group, the parent company of wholesale broker RFIB Group. RFIB had been owned by US private equity investor Calera Capital since 2015.

 In broking, Ethos Broking-owned Finch Group acquired Bridle Insurance, a £10m GWP broker based in Witney. ECI-backed Clear Group made its largest acquisition to date in acquiring Alcester-based Morrison Insurance Solutions and Arthur J. Gallagher acquired Lettings & Landlord insurance specialist RGA Group, comprising three business – Rentguard, Home & Travel and RGA Underwriting.

Insurer Markel UK announced that it would acquire the online freelancer and contractor business of commercial broker Caunce O’Hara. The transaction – for a book of business comprising 27,000 customers – will bolster Markel UK’s direct business and the company has said it does not mark a shift into broking.

There was continued activity among underwriting agents, where 2019 has seen an increasing level of M&A. CPP Group announced the acquisition of ancillary product provider Business & Domestic from Motorway Direct, H.W. Kaufman Group acquired cyber specialist Node International and the aforementioned Charles Taylor, together with the Standard Club, divested their loss-making managing agency CTMA to run-off specialist Premia.

Finally, in adjusting services the Claims Consortium Group acquired Stream Claims Services. Following the transaction Stream will become Claims Consortium Adjusting.

August, 2019

The month saw a number of small transactions and speculation about larger ones. Penta has now been invested in GRP for 6 years so there has been the inevitable speculation that they will now be looking to realise that investment. There was also speculation about Tysers looking to do a deal with Calera backed RFIB.

GRP continues to be active with the acquisition of risk management firm Health and Safety Click and Aston Lark acquired Buckland Harvester, a Manchester-based commercial broker, extending its regional footprint. GS Group, based in Perth, acquired local broker I & D Insurance Services, based in Alyth. Ethos-owned Finch Group has acquired CFN Insurance Services, trading as Bridle Insurance, a £10m GWP commercial broker based in Witney, Oxfordshire.

PE investor Beech Tree has made an investment in Avid Insurance, a £40m GWP Lloyd’s broker and coverholder, which specialises in the Social Housing sector, Travel and associated insurance, plus Property and Contingency insurance.

Howden Insurance Group has expanded its global business with the acquisition of Columbian employee benefits specialist Restrepo Henao, based in Medellin. SSL Endeavour has strengthened its board with the appointment of Jonathan Palmer-Brown, as Non-Executive Chairman, and Hugh Crossland, as Group CFO, and confirmed that it is finalising the acquisition of Worldlink Holdings, a US aviation brokerage and MGA.

Gallagher Basset acquired the assets of Adjusting Associates, a south Wales-based chartered loss adjuster, and Arc Legal Assistance, a subsidiary of AmTrust International, acquired Legal Insurance Management Group, an ISO 9001-certified specialist in legal expenses, professional fees, home emergency and vehicle breakdown.

July, 2019