Deutsche Bank Said Near U.K. Insurance Unit Sale to Phoenix

  • Phoenix said to plan to raise $1.1 billion to fund the deal
  • German bank has been reviewing options for Abbey Life unit

Deutsche Bank AG is close to selling its U.K. insurance business, Abbey Life Assurance Co., after Phoenix Group Holdings emerged as the lead bidder, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The Jersey-based consolidator of closed-life insurance businesses is planning to raise about 800 million pounds ($1.1 billion) to help fund the purchase, said one of the people, who declined to be named because the deliberations are private. The companies are set to finalize the deal within the next couple of weeks, the people said. Officials for Deutsche Bank and Phoenix declined to comment.

Phoenix Chief Executive Officer Clive Bannister, who joined in 2011 to cut costs and tackle a 2.7 billion-pound debt burden, has said that he’d be interested in buying Abbey Life if the unit was put up for sale. The CEO earlier this year completed the purchase of Axa SA’s U.K. pension and protection business for 375 million pounds, partly funded through a share placement.

Deutsche Bank said earlier this year that it was reviewing options for Abbey Life, with CEO John Cryan under pressure to shore up earnings and bolster capital buffers at the German lender. Abbey Life is among several U.K. life assurance businesses that are being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority over its practices on exit fees.

Swiss Re AG and Britain’s Legal & General Group Plc were among firms considering bids for Abbey Life, people familiar with the matter had said in April.

Shares of Phoenix rose 1.5 percent to 841.5 pence at the close of trading in London Thursday. They have fallen 8.2 percent this year, compared with a 1.8 percent gain in the FTSE 250 Index.

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