Fosun International Ltd, the Chinese group backed by billionaire Guo Guangchang, is considering an offer for all or parts of Belgian insurer Ageas in what could be its boldest move to expand its international footprint, people familiar with the matter said.
Shanghai-based Fosun is talking to advisers about alternatives including teaming up with a partner to split the Brussels-based company or increasing its current stake, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
No final decisions have been made and Fosun may decide against pursuing a deal, they said.
Representatives for Ageas and Fosun declined to comment. Shares of Ageas jumped to their highest in almost a decade on Wednesday, giving the company a market value of about €9.3bn ($10.9bn). The country’s biggest life insurance provider this month won court backing for an amended €1.31bn settlement with some former investors in its predecessor, Fortis, helping bring to a close a battle with roots in the global financial crisis and clearing the decks for a takeover.
Still, a potential deal could draw scrutiny from regulators globally because of Ageas’s prominent role in Belgium’s financial sector and its far-flung operations.
“Now that Ageas is Fortis free, it could be a compelling target for a Chinese conglomerate willing to expand its activities,” according to Jason Kalamboussis, an analyst at KBC Securities. “Nevertheless, given its positions as number one in life insurance in Belgium and number two in non-life, there could be some political push back to an outright takeover.” Fosun has continued to expand its international business empire amid a Chinese crackdown on overseas deals in some industries that’s forced other conglomerates like Anbang Insurance Group Co to shed assets.
This year, Fosun announced deals for Brazilian brokerage Guide Investimentos and French fashion house Lanvin. Its biggest overseas forays abroad have been in insurance. The company bought control of Portugal-based Caixa Geral de Depositos SA’s insurance business in a roughly €1.6bn deal in 2014, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
It also acquired US-based Ironshore Inc in 2015 for $2.1bn and then sold it less than two years later. Fosun already holds about 3% of Ageas, though Ping An Insurance (Group) Co is the largest shareholder with a 5% stake, according to filings. Shares of the Belgian company rose 5.1% to €45.90 in Brussels, after earlier trading up to €46.53, its highest since October 2008.—Agencies