Chief exec Earle admits he would 'have a look' at any NIG offer

Arista has become the latest company to announce acquisition ambitions for 2010.

The underwriting agency, backed by IAG UK and Canopius, is looking to buy managing general agents or wholesale brokers of up to half its size.

Chief executive Charles Earle told Insurance Times that he was confident his backers would fund the acquisition programme, though he did not have a dedicated war chest in place.

He said: “We are out there looking. We are not looking at any particular cases, but acquisitions are on our menu. I am talking to the corporate finance people.”

It comes as numerous other firms expressed an interest in acquisitions in 2010, suggesting M&A activity may make a comeback following a quiet 2009. Other firms on the lookout include IAG UK-owned Barnett & Barnett, Erinaceous, Groupama-owned Bollington and Lark, and several of the major consolidators.

Earle, formerly managing director of RBSI Commercial, added that he and his management team had significant experience of integrating acquisitions. He revealed that Arista had looked at a small acquisition early in the year, but the deal did not come off.

Asked if he would consider buying NIG from RBS, which has been ordered by the government to sell its insurance assets, Earle said he would “have a good look” at the sales details if they were sent to him. Such a deal is unlikely, however, given NIG’s size.

Meanwhile, Earle said that Arista, which has now been operating for three years, would post an operating profit for four of the final six months of 2009. He added that he hoped to turn an annual profit in 2010, but admitted that the original ambitions for the business had been scaled back because of the recession and soft market.