JC Flowers & Co LLC, short-listed last year in Ireland’s shelved sale of Irish Life Group Ltd., is still interested in buying the nation’s largest life insurer, an executive at the U.S. investment firm said.
“We remain interested to invest in Ireland and have followed Irish Life’s progress over the last year or so,” Tim Hanford, managing director of JC Flowers & Co U.K. Ltd., said by phone today. “If the government were now to re-open the sale process for the company, then we would certainly hope to participate.”
Ireland’s government has resumed talks on a possible sale of Irish Life to Canada’s Great-West Lifeco Inc. (GWO), said two people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named as the process is private. The government bought the insurer for 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in June from debt-laden lender Irish Life & Permanent Plc after the euro-area debt crisis prompted Great-West to pull out of the process in November 2011.
Great-West, the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based owner of Boston- based Putnam Investments, was picked as the top candidate to acquire Irish Life last year. A joint bid from New York-based JC Flowers and Apollo Global Management LLC (APO) and an offer from CVC Capital Partners Ltd. was also short-listed, three people said in August 2011.
“We consider Irish Life an attractive long-term opportunity for Great-West,” Peter Routledge, an analyst at National Bank Financial Group in Toronto, wrote in a note to clients yesterday, noting that company manages 33 percent of life assurance and pensions assets in Ireland. “However, the potential deal does pose some near-term valuation risk, especially of the European debt crisis intensifies again.”
Great-West’s existing Irish subsidiary, Canada Life, has a 5 percent market share, the analyst said.
Officials from Ireland’s Finance Ministry and Irish Life declined to comment on the resumed talks with Great-West, while Marlene Klassen, a spokeswoman for the Canadian life company, didn’t immediately return a phone call. The Sunday Business Post reported on Dec. 2 Great-West had reopened talks on Irish Life.
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