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Swiss Re fortifies its presence in Britain

Swiss Re headquarters in Zurich

(Keystone)

Swiss Re said on Friday it had agreed to buy the GE Life business of US conglomerate General Electric for £465 million (SFr1.1 billion) in cash.

The Zurich-based reinsurance giant said it would acquire around 400,000 policies with total assets of around £8 billion, mostly savings and income retirement policies, adding scale to its Admin Re business in Britain.

The deal comes 11 months after Swiss Re bought reinsurance operations from GE in a $7.4 billion (SFr9.4 billion) deal. Swiss Re plans to cut thousands of jobs as part of last year's purchase, which pushed it to the top of the global rankings for the reinsurance business.

The GE Life purchase allows Swiss Re to beef up its Admin Re division, specialised in administering policies in the life and health business, in Britain.

The portfolio is composed primarily of savings and income retirement planning products and includes the National Mutual Fund acquired by GE Life in 2002, the company said.

Swiss Re and Deutsche Bank had been thought to be among the final bidders for the GE Life business, according to media reports preceding the sale.

Swiss Re said the deal would add scale and infrastructure to its businesses in Britain.

GE Life will continue to write new business through financial advisers under a new brand name to be announced in 2007, Swiss Re said.

Swiss Re shares closed up 0.6 per cent on Friday at SFr101.40. The shares have gained around five per cent so far this year compared with 14 per cent for the European insurance sector as a whole.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Reinsurance is basically the business of insuring the insurers. Swiss Re insures large or very volatile risks for other insurance companies. Its major competitor is Munich Re of Germany.

Apart from being the number one in the reinsurance business, Swiss Re is the world's largest life and health reinsurer.

Swiss Re has been in the business of reinsurance since it was founded in Zurich in 1863.

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Key facts

Results for the first half of 2006
Net income: SFr1.57 billion (+16%)
Income from investment: SFr2.8 billion
Annualised return on equity: 13.9%
Basic earnings per share: SFr4.92
Number of employees (combined groups): 11,400

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