By Noor Zainab Hussain
(Reuters) – Britain’s esure <ESUR.L> is in advanced talks over a possible 1.17 billion pound ($1.49 billion) bid from Bain Capital Private Equity, the insurance company said on Monday, sending its shares more than 30 percent higher.
esure was founded when its top shareholder Peter Wood and Halifax bank launched online insurer esure.com in 2001. After a management buy-out in 2010, it became an independent company and listed in London two years later at 212 pence per share.
Bain Capital has proposed buying esure at 280 pence per share in cash, 37 percent above the insurer’s share price close of 204 pence on Friday.
“esure has indicated to Bain Capital that it would be minded to recommend a firm offer for esure if made by Bain Capital at the price set out in the proposal …” the company said in a statement.
Under British takeover rules, Bain has until Sept. 10 to either announce a firm intention to make an offer or walk away.
esure released the statement after its shares rose on Monday. Its stock was up 31.1 percent at 267.6 pence at 1220 GMT, the biggest rise on London’s midcap index <.FTMC>.
esure, which launched Sheilas’ Wheels – a female-focused insurance brand – in 2005, vies with firms such as Aviva <AV.L>, RSA <RSA.L>, Direct Line <DLGD.L>, Hastings <HSTG.L> and Admiral <ADML.L> in the competitive UK car insurance market.
Direct Line’s shares, up 2.1 percent, were the top percentage gainers on London’s blue-chip index <.FTSE>, followed by Admiral and RSA. Hasting’s shares were up 4 percent.
The sector has been hit by falling motor insurance prices and higher costs in home insurance due to a spell of extreme winter weather in Britain earlier this year.
(GRAPHIC: Britain’s motor insurers hit by falling prices, regulation – https://tmsnrt.rs/2MorI9O)
The talks come after media reports last year that esure’s Peter Wood was looking to sell his 30.8 percent stake. At the time, a merger with a U.S. insurer was reported as the most likely route for the British insurer.
Global cross-border mergers and acquisitions have reached an 11-year high of $1.2 trillion so far this year, up 74 percent on the same time last year, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The talks with Bain also come at a time when esure is searching for a chief executive after Stuart Vann, at the helm since 2012, stepped down in January, in an abrupt move that meant founder Wood would take a more active role.
esure listed its price comparison website, Gocompare.com <GOCO.L>, on the London Stock Exchange in 2016.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Potter)