Short-term focus is on the UK business following Swett & Crawford takeover, says chief executive

Cooper Gay is not likely to float until 2012, chief executive officer Toby Esser has revealed.

“It is absolutely the intention to float the company, but 2011 is probably too early," Esser told Insurance Times. "We are always open to changing that and have some time to make up our minds. We think at the moment that it will be sometime in 2012."

Cooper Gay now joins Towergate, Giles and Hyperion in targeting a 2012 listing.

Esser said the flotation was dependent on a number of factors, including the company’s results, market trends, wider economic growth and stock market conditions. The London-based wholesale and reinsurance broking group is struggling to achieve significant organic growth in a weakened economy, according to Esser.

“We’re going through the budget at the moment but [a flotation] next year looks like too much of a challenge,” he said.

Following Cooper Gay’s July acquisition of US wholesale broker Swett & Crawford, Esser said the company’s main focus was on building its UK capabilities. The combination of the two companies created the largest independent global wholesale and reinsurance, placing $3.5bn (£2.2bn) in premiums in the global market.

He added that while the company was not actively seeking acquisition targets, “we’re always interested in the UK if a Lloyd’s broker becomes available that we think is a good fit”.

Esser also revealed that Cooper Gay is building up its energy business and is expecting to recruit several members of staff to the division, although he refused to be drawn on details.

Expanding the property, marine and professional liability teams is a continuing target, said Esser, although the current focus is on smaller-scale hires. “We are just as happy hiring individuals as we are making splashes on big teams, so that’s the strategy for now,” he said.

The sudden departure of Cooper Gay’s UK chief executive, Jim Summers, on 3 November to lead rival broker Guy Carpenter’s global marine and energy division was a “fundamental change of direction”, Esser said.

However, he added that it was “an understandable career choice that he made”.

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