A review of the key online stories.
Last week, the insurance spotlight shone on former AIG chief Hank Greenberg, who called for heads to roll at the world’s largest insurer after it posted record losses of $7.8bn (£4bn) in the first quarter and upped its sub-prime write-downs to a colossal $20bn.
With over $80bn being wiped off its market cap, AIG’s stock has almost halved in value over the past year. Greenberg, who was replaced three years ago by Martin Sullivan after almost four decades at the helm, is understandably upset with the state of things – and all the more so considering he owns a tenth of the company.
His comments that the insurer’s difficulties “extend far beyond its sub-prime credit exposure or approach to capital management” will not sit well with his investor peers.
AIG’s difficulties have also thrown into question the possibility of the insurer launching a bid for RBS’ insurance assets. After a wild month of speculation, the provisional field of 15 bidders has at last started to narrow.
Out of the frame appears to be private equity, with the Financial Times reporting that the bank had sent a letter rebuffing the interest of private equity suitors, which is understood to include Willis-backers KKR, and Blackstone. As the trade buyers jostle for position, Ping An’s status as the darkest of horses continues to climb.
On a related note, the circulation of an information memorandum to potential buyers by Oval proved the leading topic of interest on insurancetimes.co.uk. It was followed closely by the news that the FSA was set to intensify its scrutiny of comparison websites. It remains unclear what its latest investigation will hope to achieve.
Other popular stories included the latest addition to the CCV stable – part of plans to grow the broker’s GWP to half a billion by 2012 – and Giles’ plans to ramp up its underwriting portfolio.
Across the globe, preliminary estimates began flooding in after the worst earthquake in 30 years struck China. The latest insured loss estimates range between $300m and $1bn – a meagre fraction of the total economic loss, which could be as much as $20bn, and of the $42bn insured losses stemming from hurricane Katrina.
Back in the UK, Westinsure’s carefully worded statement on its sale to Broker Network drew a flurry of interest. Unsurprisingly, the words of Broker Network chief Grant Ellis, proved more popular still. His thoughts on consolidation in the network space were captured on film, and proved the third most popular story of the week.
The most read stories this week on insurancetimes.co.uk:
1. Oval up for sale with £300m price tag
Consolidator circulates information memorandum as it seeks means of refinancing.
2. FSA to test aggregators
Financial watchdog says sites must be clear, fair and not misleading.
3. The ultimate networker
Grant Ellis reveals why the networks will consolidate in 2008.
4. CCV acquires Midlands broker
Latest deal moves consolidator close to £230m GWP.
5. Giles to hire 100 underwriters
Consolidator in discussions with insurers to boost capacity.
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Christie Insurance has appointed six new recruits.
Walter Murray, who has over 20 years’ experience as a broker, has been appointed director of insurance broking. He joins from Layton Blackham.
Philip Roberts joins as head of compliance for Christie Insurance, Christie Corporate Finance and Christie Finance. He joins from Diamond Lifestyle Holdings.
Paul Redmond joins as life and protection consultant.
Steve Hibbert joins as a development executive after 10 years at Aon.
Joe Gooden has been working within the insurance industry for over seven years and also joins Christie Insurance as a development executive.
Liberty International Underwriters (LIU), has appointed Olivier Muraire as general manager of LIU’s operations in France.
Aegis London has appointed Frank Chu as cargo underwriter. He joins from QBE.
The National Insurance Repair Contractors Association (Nirca) has announced its executive board.
Rob Withers remains chairman until March 2009, vice chair is Neil Foster, Steve Whittle takes over responsibility for membership and Adam Clutterbuck, warranty.
Chubb Insurance has appointed James Steele-Perkins as structured credit underwriter within the political risk division at Chubb Insurance Europe. He joins from Ace.
Arista Insurance has appointed Mike Shallcross and Dave Carroll to its Manchester branch.
Shallcross joins as broker development manager and Carroll joins as senior commercial underwriter.