AXA Group set to leave its last three CEE markets in the portfolio, market rumours say

6 February 2020 — Daniela GHETU
French group AXA is in advanced talks to sell its CEE operations to Austria's Uniqa Insurance Group AG, said Bloomberg quoting people familiar with the matter and thus putting again under the limelight a market rumour started in the fall of 2019.

The insurers aim to reach an agreement in the coming weeks for the businesses in the last CEE countries that it cover: Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, sources said. In the past years AXA Group decided to sell its business to Vienna Insurance Group in Hungary (2015), Serbia (2016) and Romania (2017). At the same time the Azeri operations were sold to Elkhan GARIBLI (2018), while the AXA's Ukrainian insurers were acquired by FAIRFAX Financial Holdings in 2019.

The deal could reach close to EUR 1 billion, Bloomberg's sources said. Other sources mentioned amounts ranging between EUR 400 to EUR 800.

Uniqa edged out rival bids coming from several "big names" among which sources mention Italy's Assicurazioni Generali and Vienna Insurance Group AG, PZU or ALLIANZ. No final agreements have been reached, and none of the representatives of the companies involved accepted to comment.

The deal, if confirmed, may be part of AXA's announced strategy of "restructuring to quit markets where it lacks scale". In fact, AXA's operations in the three markets mentioned are of a modest scale. In 2018, AXA held a 4.78% market share on the Polish non-life insurance market and 3,29% of the life sector, with GWP totalling about EUR 620 million. In the Czech Rep., the French insurer controlled about 1.5% of the non-life market and 2.37% of the life segment, with total GWP of about EUR 90 million.

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