RSA CEO Says More Bids Likely After Zurich Scraps Takeover

Updated on
  • CEO Hester says RSA has not had other takeover offers
  • RSA could become target of China, Japan insurers: Deutsche

RSA Insurance Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hester said the company will attract bids from other suitors after Zurich Insurance Group AG abandoned its 5.6 billion-pound ($8.7 billion) offer for the British insurer.

“I am sure that this company will get other approaches in the future because it’s a consolidating industry and it’s an attractive company, but we are not looking for approaches and we are not talking to anyone else as we speak,” Hester said in a telephone interview Monday.

Stephen Hester

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Hester, hired in 2014 to help the insurer restore profit and recover from an accounting scandal in Ireland, said RSA hadn’t received any other approaches since Zurich first registered its interest in the company in July. The CEO said that in the absence of another offer, the insurer will continue to focus on the turnaround that had been disrupted since Zurich talks first emerged. His strategy has included a string of asset disposals.

The shares tumbled 21 percent on Monday, erasing more than 1 billion pounds of market value after Switzerland’s largest insurer said it abandoned the offer because of losses at its own general insurance unit. The stock was up 1.5 percent to 409.3 pence by 10:47 a.m. on Tuesday, below the 437.8 pence trading price before Zurich revealed its intentions to bid.

Hester Surprised

“I was surprised,” Hester said. “As far as we were concerned, until last night everything was on course. We knew that the due diligence had gone well and that nothing had come out that was alarming. It was as much as a
surprise to us as it was to the market.”

Analysts including Shore Capital Group Ltd.’s Eamonn Flanagan and Berenberg’s Sami Taipalus said another offer for the insurer couldn’t be ruled out with the shares more attractive since Zurich walked away. Deutsche Bank’s Oliver Steel said future interest for RSA could come from Asia, rather than the U.S. or Europe.

"If Zurich couldn’t make it work, we doubt that other western insurers can either," Steel said, who has a hold rating on the stock, in a note to clients. “Nor do our U.S. analysts believe that there is interest from U.S. insurers. That leaves only the Japanese or Chinese insurers, who could be interested in building their global scale, but who wouldn’t derive any synergies.”

RSA’s stock had surged by the most in almost two decades amid speculation that larger rivals, including Allianz SE, Europe’s biggest insurer, and France’s Axa SA may also bid for the British insurer.