Insurance companies are going through a “hot” period and not only because of the summer. Companies in the sector have been acquired and large multinationals are investing millions of euros to strengthen their presence in Greece. In Greece, the production of insurance premiums shows upward trends in recent years with a… mandatory break in yields in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Within six months, Generali acquired AXA Insurance for 165 million euros, CVC National Insurance for 330 million euros (plus 120 million if certain goals are achieved) and NN Group acquired MetLife activities in Greece and Poland, paying EUR 584 million in total.
Weathering the crisis
The industry is returning to the forefront as its operations are intertwined with the course of the GDP. Given that Greece has secured 72 billion from the Recovery Fund and the NSRF over the next six years and all analysts estimate that the economic recovery – if the absorption of funds is rapid and efficient – will be impressive, it is reasonable for the industry to be gathering interest.
Even in 2020, when due to the coronavirus there was a decrease in the production of insurance premiums (-3.7%), the performance was much better than the fall in GDP by -8.5%. Insurance companies withstood the ten-year crisis and many of them showed satisfactory profitability, certainly helped by the profits of their investment portfolio.
A rise in margins
According to analysts, the growth margins of insurance companies operating in Greece are large, as Greek production corresponds to 2.7% of GDP compared to 7.6% of European production. Given that in the coming years the growth of the country will show rates of 3% -4%, it is estimated that the insurance industry will also benefit from the rise in living standards.
At the same time, if tax incentives are introduced for those who sign insurance contracts – a constant request of the industry -, the clientele of companies will further increase. Also, health insurance premiums show great growth potential, since the per capita expenditure in Greece is 30 euros, while in Europe it is 248 euros.
Diminishing Greek participation
The acquisitions that have taken place in recent years have contributed to the de-Hellenization of the industry. It all started in 2001, when Interamerican changed hands and came under the control of Eureko, which has been renamed Achmea. The big subsidiaries of the banks followed.
Alpha Insurance was acquired by AXA and now AXA by Generali, Agricultural Insurance by Ergo, Phoenix Metrolife Commercial by Groupama, Eurolife by Fairfax and Laiki Bank insurance by the French CNP. The de-Hellenization was of course completed with the acquisition of Ethniki Asfalistiki, the largest Greek company, by the CVC fund.
At the same time, during the examined period, well-known Greek companies, such as Aspis Pronoia, Commercial Value and International Life, ceased their operation.
Now the largest purely Greek insurance company is European Credit.
This development, ie the concentration of the industry in the hands of foreigners, was not necessarily negative, since during the years of economic crisis the parent companies abroad covered capital increases and the industry did not have “accidents” from foreclosures and deceived customers as in past. On the other hand, the result of the de-Hellenization of insurance companies is that they maintain, even today when the risk of bankruptcy of the country has disappeared, more than 50% of their assets, amounting to a total of 16 billion euros, abroad. Although, as industry players point out, at the same time, the funds of several Greek companies remain abroad.
Acquisitions and mergers will continue as small companies are unable to maintain their capital at the level required by regulators, especially now that the negative interest rate environment is cutting back on the returns of their investment portfolios.
What the acquisition of MetLife Hellas means for NN Group
NN Group holds first place in the health and life sector in Greece with a share of 31% after the acquisition of MetLife Hellas. At the beginning of the week, NN Group acquired the activities of American Metlife in Greece and Poland for 584 million euros.
Cash flows, including dividends to be paid to existing shareholders before takeover completion, are expected to be around € 36 million, which will be deducted from the total price of € 620 million (with a PLN-EUR exchange rate).
The sale of MetLife Greece is part of the general framework of restructuring of the group, which is in progress under the parent company in New York.
According to NN Group, with the acquisition of Metlife Greece, the group will have a share of 18% in the total insurance market and will be in first place in the health and life sector with a share of 31%.
Especially for Greece, the agreement includes a network with more than 400 insurance agents, thus adding more than 50% potential to the existing NN network.
NN Group CEO David Knibbe said: “From a strategic and economic point of view, for us at NN this is a unique opportunity to enhance value and consolidate our leadership in these markets. The acquisition will increase in size, offer growth opportunities and diversify the life and protection sector in markets with low insurance penetration rates. Having a presence in Greece since 1980 and in Poland since 1994, we know and understand these markets well. MetLife’s activities match ours, while we have a compatible culture and business model, which allow for smooth integration. Combining the strengths of both companies, we will continue to focus on both our new and existing customers. We look forward to welcoming approximately 2.7 million new customers and 450 new colleagues to our organization, as well as working with approximately 1,600 additional insurance intermediaries. ”
The closing of the agreement is subject to supervisory and competition approvals and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022. It is questionable at the moment what will happen to MetLife Asset Management. The deal definitely includes it, but it will depend on the new owner whether it will be sold or not. The question mark arises as NN Group has not had its own Asset Management branch for several years and its mutual funds are managed by another company.