Marsh Said to Weigh Bid for Alexander Forbes of South Africa

Marsh Ltd. CEO Mark Weil
Marsh Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Mark Weil. Marsh Ltd., the insurance unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos, has expressed interest in bidding for closely held Alexander Forbes Ltd. of South Africa, according to three people familiar with the talks. Source: Marsh Ltd.

Marsh Ltd., the insurance unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos, has expressed interest in bidding for closely held Alexander Forbes Ltd. of South Africa, according to three people familiar with the talks.

Alex Forbes’s preference shares rose as much as 6.2 percent, the most in seven weeks, and were trading 3.5 percent higher at 9.50 rand as of 4:33 p.m. in Johannesburg. Marsh rose 0.6 percent to $52.16 as of 10:34 a.m. in New York, the highest in almost 11 years.

Shareholders in Alex Forbes are meeting today to decide whether to pursue a trade sale or initial public offering as private equity owners prepare to exit. The company may sell part of the business to another company and list some shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

Peter Beshar, a spokesman at New York-based Marsh, the biggest insurance broker by market value, said the company doesn’t comment on potential deals. Lynn Stevens, a spokeswoman for Alex Forbes, said there would be a statement on June 23 and declined to comment further. The Johannesburg-based pension-fund manager said in April it was exploring expressions of interest from several parties to acquire the company.

Private equity firms including Actis LLP and Ethos Private Equity Ltd. bought Alex Forbes for 8.2 billion rand ($767 million) in 2007. Deutsche Bank AG and Rand Merchant Bank were hired last year to advise on an exit. The preference shares value the company at about 12.3 billion rand.

If the company decides to proceed with a share sale, it may list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange by the end of July, Chief Executive Officer Edward Kieswetter said in an interview on June 17. Kieswetter, who became CEO in 2010, has overseen the sale of three U.K. operations and South African insurance unit Guardrisk while returning the company to profitability.

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