Lloyd's insurer buys SME coverholder

Amlin is to acquire Financière Europe Assurance (FEA), the holding company of Anglo French Underwriters (AFU). The vendors are 21 Centrale Partners (the French branch of the 21 Group) and members of AFU management.

Established in 1938, AFU is Lloyd’s largest approved coverholder in France, focusing on SME specialty business. Based in Paris with around 40 employees, AFU operates through a network of over 1,300 independent retail brokers and underwrites a diverse book of business including property, cargo, professional liability and specie.

In the current financial year, it expects to handle approximately € 40m of gross written premium.

The move enters Amlin into the French market. The insurer said it demonstrates the company's continuing focus on improving its distribution capabilities. "The acquisition will also enable Amlin to balance the growth in its catastrophe book with the acquisition of additional non-catastrophe exposed business. This strategic business development is intended to enhance the long-term profitability of the group," Amlin said in a statement.

Francois Martinache, chairman of AFU, said, “We have worked with Amlin for many years and greatly respect their underwriting expertise. We look forward to working with Amlin in the future to enhance and develop our current product offering and to provide a platform for future growth”.

Charles Philipps, chief executive of Amlin, said: “The acquisition of AFU is a tremendous opportunity for Amlin and we look forward to continuing to work closely with our friends in France. AFU’s quality management team and proven track record of bringing profitable business to Lloyd’s provides an ideal strategic fit for Amlin as well as a platform to expand into the French and wider European market”.

The transaction is subject to the approval of Lloyd’s and the FSAy, which Amlin expects to receive before the end of the year.

As at 31 July 2008, FEA had gross assets of €23.6m. Following the acquisition, the consideration for which will be satisfied in cash, Amlin will own 95% of the issued share capital of FEA. The balance will be held by its management but is subject to put and call options whereby Amlin expects in due course to move to 100% ownership.