POLAND: PZU is ready for shopping across Europe

22 February 2012 — Daniela GHETU
PZU, Poland's and also CEE's region top insurer, is in talks with private equity firms to set up a PLN 13 billion (~ EUR 3.1 billion) investment vehicle for foreign acquisitions, recently stated Andrzej KLESYK, CEO of Polish insurer for Rzeczpospolita daily. PZU wants to establish PZU International this year and start looking around Europe for some interesting acquisitions. For the time being, PZU operates out of Poland only in Ukraine and Lithuania.

PZU group's input in the new entity, estimated at PLN 6-7 billion, is to represent 40-45% of the project's equity. The remaining share will belong to one or two private equity firms. The Polish group also wants to invite another partner to the vehicle, either the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank's International Financial Corporation, KLESYK also said. Such entities could act as minority shareholders and provide a greater stability and trust if the company decides to expand in Eastern Europe, or in countries like Russia or Belarus, KLESYK said. PZU, worth some EUR 7.1 billion at Monday's close, would like to eventually list the new firm on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, he also said.

"We will look into insurers, but only in Europe, and not in Brazil for example, to what some people are strongly encouraging me to. We do not want to buy a bank either," KLESYK told Rzeczpospolita. Although PZU's targets are still vaguely defined at the moment, we should probably remember KLESYK's statements from the very beginning of his mandate, when he said that "there is no point in buying small companies". At that time, he also thought that the group should acquire companies operating in "a very niche segment, where PZU doesn't operate."

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