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Swiss Life raises cash with divestments

Swiss Life needs cash to re-launch its growth strategy

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss Life has boosted its finances to the tune of SFr554 million ($351 million) by selling its stakes in two non-core businesses.

The company said the divestments were made to reduce its exposure to fickle stock markets. The insurer had decided earlier this year to refocus on core insurance activities.

Swiss Life raised SFr329.6 million from the sale of its 23.5 per cent in Swiss asset manager RMF Investment Group. The stake was bought by Britain's Man group, which is taking over RMF to form the world's largest fund manager.

The insurer raised a further SFr224 million by reducing its holding in Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), the world's largest inspection services group, from 16 per cent to five.

Nearly half of those shares were sold to Worms & Cie, a French holding company controlled by Fiat's Agnelli family.

Growth strategy

The sales will give the company fresh capital to re-launch its growth strategy. Swiss Life plans to purchase the life insurance and pension savings business of Fortis France, although no details about the financing of the buyout have been released so far.

Swiss Life announced in April that net profit dropped last year to SFr124 million, down from SFr924 million in 2000. The insurer is cutting 800 jobs worldwide and reducing its administrative costs by SFr300 million as part of a turnaround plan.

After the figures were released, boardroom infighting about the future strategy of the insurer cost the chief executive officer Manfred Zobl his job. Roland Chlapowski has taken over operations, focusing on profitability and cutting down on what he calls "the fat of recent years."

swissinfo with agencies

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