China's Fosun buys US insurance company

Updated: 2015-01-01 09:54

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)

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China's Fosun buys US insurance company

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd is moving into the US property and casualty (P&C) insurance market by acquiring Meadowbrook Insurance Group for about $433 million. Provided to China Daily

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd is moving into the US property and casualty (P&C) insurance market by acquiring Meadowbrook Insurance Group for about $433 million, according to Fosun's chairman Guo Guangchang.

Guo said the deal is "another milestone" for China's biggest privately held conglomerate, one that will enable it to "further strengthen its comprehensive insurance-oriented financial capabilities".

He also said the deal is consistent with the company's efforts to expand its core insurance business.

"Meadowbrook has a talented employee base, comprehensive offering of high-quality specialty insurance products, robust distribution network and a strong commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its policyholders," Guo said Tuesday in a statement.

Robert S Cubbin, president and CEO of Meadowbrook, said the partnership with Fosun gives the company good support to strengthen its capital base. Additionally, the pact will allow the US-based insurance firm to improve its underwriting services and drive profitability, he said.

Tripp Levy, a New York-based law firm, may challenge the deal between Fosun and Meadowbrook, according to a press release issued on Wednesday.

Tripp Levy said it is investigating "possible breaches of fiduciary duty and other violations of state law," and "seeks to determine if there was an adequate auction process and if Fosun is underpaying for Meadowbrook's shares."

A spokesman for Meadowbrook declined to comment.

Meadowbrook will continue to maintain its headquarters in the US, the companies said. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2015.

Meadowbrook, founded in 1955 and based in Southfield, Michigan, is a leading provider in the specialty insurance market.

The group focuses on three main areas: insurance carrier operations, insurance services, and retail/wholesale insurance agency operations. The company also oversees six P&C insurance underwriting companies.

Fosun Group, founded in 1992, is a China-based industrial conglomerate with investments in insurance, industrial operations, pharmaceuticals and asset management. The company's headquarters is in Shanghai and it has a workforce of more than 35,000 employees worldwide.

Fosun, has more than $50 billion in total assets and more than one-third are invested in the insurance business.

Some of Fosun's insurance subsidiaries include: Yong'an P&C Insurance (Xi'an, Shaanxi province); Pramerica Fosun Life Insurance (a US-Sino joint venture (JV) with Prudential Financial Inc); and Caixa Seguros e Saude SGPS SA (a state-owned Portuguese insurance provider).

At the time, Fosun's $1.36 billion deal for a controlling interest in Caixa Seguros, — Portugal's largest insurance group — was the first time a Chinese company bought an overseas insurance firm. The deal closed in May.

Fosun has been active in overseas acquisitions in recent years. Its more recent high-profile plays have come in the entertainment and real estate sectors.

Fosun invested in Studio 8 in June, a film company founded by Jeff Robinov, a former president of Warner Bros Entertainment Inc. The Wall Street Journal reported in September that the initial input would approach $200 million.

The company also signed an agreement with the Latsis Group in June regarding a $200 million investment to help redevelop an out-of-date airport in Athens. The work on Hellenikon International Airport is expected to create 50,000 job opportunities over the next 10 years.

In May, Fosun announced the company's first move in Japan with its purchase of Tokyo-based real estate company Idera Capital Management. No financial details accompanied the news.

Fosun's latest battle involves a takeover bid for French vacation resort operator Club Mediterranee SA.

On Dec 19, Guo, Fosun's chairman, raised his bid for the resort just ahead of an impending deadline. His bid now values Club Med at $1.15 billion. Guo has described Club Med as an ideal investment to tap booming Chinese travel demand.

Guo and Italian tycoon Andrea Bonom have been raising their bids for the resort for months. The most recent offer is the eighth that Club Med has entertained from its two main suitors. The deadline for a counterbid has been set for Jan 7.

Cubbin, with Meadowbrook, said: "Combining with Fosun … is the culmination of a thorough, strategic review process. This is a positive outcome for our shareholders, who will receive significant value; our employees, who will benefit from enhanced opportunities; and our customers, partners and policyholders, who will benefit from an even stronger specialty risk, insurance and service provider."