technology

No News on Softbank Leaves Swiss Re Investors in Dark on Deal

  • Price, management control are said to be main sticking points
  • Swiss Re executives have said a stake would be limited to 10%

Swiss Re AG shed little light on Friday on reports that talks over selling a stake in itself to billionaire Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp. have stalled.

Asked about the talks on Friday, Chief Financial Offer John Dacey told reporters that talks are continuing and the company has nothing further to add about the discussions beyond its comments made last month. People with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News this week that the talks had stalled amid disagreement over the price and size of the stake and how much management control would be handed to Son.

Asked if the Swiss reinsurer is talking to others about a potential investment in the company, Dacey said: "I really wouldn’t want to speculate or hypothesize on other discussions that might or might not be occurring."

Issues within SoftBank, such as the pending merger of its Sprint Corp. business with T-Mobile US Inc. and the initial public offering of SoftBank’s mobile unit, have shifted Son’s focus, the people said. While the talks cooled in recent weeks, they could still be revived, the people said.

A deal would help Son, who is reshaping the Japanese phone carrier SoftBank into a technology investor, follow other business titans such as Warren Buffett in seeking to profit from the cash flows provided by reinsurance. But Swiss Re executives have pushed back against expectations that the company’s assets could be used to buttress Son’s investment projects, saying talks were limited to a stake of 10 percent or less.

Swiss Re, which reported earnings on Friday, was little changed in Zurich trading at 93.58 francs as of 10:42 a.m.

Dacey told investors last month that it was “highly unlikely” that the company would sell treasury shares as part of any deal. Swiss Re’s reluctance to issue new shares means SoftBank must buy its stake on the open market at a price which has risen more than 4 percent since the talks were first announced, another person said.

Mumenthaler has said that the talks were initiated by SoftBank. UBS Group AG is advising SoftBank, while Credit Suisse Group AG is advising Swiss Re.

Son has a net worth of about $14 billion and is Japan’s third-richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

— With assistance by Manuel Baigorri, and Jan-Henrik Foerster

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