Conning Agrees to Buy Octagon, Add $12.8 Billion of Assets

  • Octagon focuses on CLOs, bank loans and high-yield bonds
  • Bradford says deal gives clients access to more asset classes

Conning, the asset manager acquired by Cathay Financial Holding Co., agreed to buy Octagon Credit Investors to push into below-investment-grade debt markets.

Octagon, which oversees $12.8 billion in assets, focuses on collateralized loan obligations, bank loans and high-yield bonds and employs 48 professionals, Hartford, Connecticut-based Conning said Thursday in a statement. Total consideration will be as much as $175.6 million for a stake of about 82 percent, Conning Chief Executive Officer Woody Bradford said in a phone interview.

Conning has about $93 billion under management and focuses on clients such as insurers. The company has been expanding through acquisitions, adding $6 billion of assets from Brookfield Asset Management Inc. in 2014 and buying a Phoenix Cos. subsidiary in 2011. Bradford said he’s looking for more deals that will help meet clients’ needs and boost profits.

Vigorous Pursuit

“We will continue to look at acquisitions that meet those criteria,” he said. “And if we find them we will pursue them vigorously.”

Third-party asset managers have been seeking to expand business in the insurance industry, where companies are coping with low bond yields and increased government oversight. Bradford said that increased regulation on CLO managers, which will require them to have skin in the game, may have helped facilitate the deal.

Octagon’s “prior ownership structure didn’t have the balance sheet and didn’t have the resources to be able to provide for the upcoming risk-retention rules,” he said.

Citigroup Inc. was Octagon’s bank on the deal, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP provided legal advice. Conning used Broadhaven Capital Partners and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP was legal adviser to Octagon management.

The deal is expected to be completed in early 2016, according to the statement.

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