Former Barclays CEO close to deal to buy Hartford unit, say sources: Reuters

Atlas Merchant Capital LLC, the investment firm led by former Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Bob Diamond, is in advanced talks to acquire a Hartford Financial Services Group Inc annuity run-off business for between $3 billion and $3.5 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Divesting the unit, dubbed Talcott Resolution, would help Hartford recycle capital, allowing it to shed a business that no longer writes new contracts and focus on more profitable, non-life insurance parts of its operations.

Atlas has prevailed in an auction for Talcott Resolution, two sources said. While there is no certainty that the negotiations will be successful, a deal could come as early as next month, the sources added, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

Hartford declined to comment, while Atlas did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Many insurance firms, struggling to maintain pay-outs at a time of low interest rates, have been placing their annuities businesses into run-off units such as Talcott Resolution – whereby no new policies are written and existing ones are managed until maturity.

Often, these units have subsequently been sold. Financial investors such as private equity firms have been buyers, aiming to squeeze out greater returns on these policies by measures including cutting administrative costs.

In its second-quarter earnings which were released earlier on Thursday, Hartford said Talcott Resolution’s net income was $105 million in the second quarter, almost flat to the corresponding three months of 2016, as declining core earnings were offset by lower costs.

Reflecting the run-off nature of the unit, individual variable annuity and fixed annuity contract as of June 30 had declined 10 percent and 6 percent respectively on the same point of last year. No further details were given.

Should the agreement be secured to sell Talcott Resolution to Atlas, it would be the latest in a string of such deals.

Last month, Dutch insurance firm Aegon NV completed the sale of the majority of its U.S. run-off business, worth $14 billion and comprising of annuity and life insurance products, to Wilton Re.