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Report On Business CPPIB buys insurance firm from AIG in $1.1-billion (U.S.) deal

A woman walks past the AIG Building in Tokyo in this file photo.

MICHAEL CARONNA/REUTERS

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board agreed to buy Ascot Underwriting Holdings Ltd., the Lloyd's of London insurer tied to American International Group Inc., as part of a $1.1-billion (U.S.) deal.

AIG will get about $240-million in cash proceeds, reflecting the New York-based company's 20 per cent stake in the business and ownership of a related unit in the deal, the company said in a statement Friday. Ascot Underwriting's ownership has included an employee trust. The $1.1-billion sum also includes a recapitalization of an entity by the buyer, AIG said.

The CPPIB, Canada's largest pension fund, has been building bets on insurance, agreeing last year to take a stake in Enstar Group Ltd. after striking a deal in 2014 to buy Wilton Re Holdings Ltd. Ascot takes on specialized risks, guarding against losses tied to the energy and shipping industries and fine art.

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"We have studied the global property and casualty insurance sector for several years and specifically identified Ascot as an ideal platform through which the CPPIB can access diverse global insurance premiums at scale," Ryan Selwood, managing director and head of direct private equity at the Toronto-based buyer, said in a separate statement.

Insurers have been seeking deals for Lloyd's of London businesses, which offer coverage for unique risks. Prem Watsa, who leads Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., bet on the market with his 2015 deal to purchase Brit PLC, which guards against losses in industries such as energy and aerospace. XL Group Ltd. bought Catlin Group Ltd. that year to expand in London.

AIG's Peter Hancock is the third straight chief executive officer to shrink the company through divestitures, announcing an agreement in August to sell a mortgage guarantor to Arch Capital Group Ltd. and previously making deals to scale back in Taiwan and Central America. The company has raised more than $90-billion since it started to sell units after its 2008 bailout.

Deals continued even after the company repaid the rescue as Hancock sought funds for share buybacks, and activist investors including Carl Icahn called for a simpler insurer. AIG has also been cutting jobs, including in Britain.

The seller will maintain a relationship with Ascot through the Bermuda insurance market "while monetizing our position in the syndicate at an attractive value and retaining exposure to the syndicate as a reinsurer," Rob Schimek, CEO of commercial coverage at AIG, said in his company's statement.

Ascot will remain a standalone business after the deal, overseen by its board of directors and retaining its entire senior management team and about 194 employees led by CEO Andrew Brooks, the buyer said.

AIG's banker on the deal was Evercore Partners Inc. and the company got legal advice from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Ascot used Macquarie Group Ltd.

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