The volume of completed mergers and acquisitions (M&A) worldwide in the insurance industry continued its downward trend with 170 deals in the first six months of 2017 compared to 186 in the preceding period as insurance businesses continue to pursue a range of routes to growth, according to the Clyde & Co Growth Report mid-year update.
Activity is now down 24% from its recent high in H1 2015 when there were 225 deals.
Activity in Europe is down 28% in the last six months, in part due to the distraction of Brexit, while completed M&A deals in Asia Pacific fell to 22 from 36 in the second half of 2016, partly due to temporary monetary controls in place in China.
The Middle East and Africa saw a slight uptick in M&A, albeit from a low base, with eight deals compared to just two in the prior period. Activity was also up in the Americas, with 86 transactions so far this year, compared to 81 in the preceding six months.
Technology tops the agenda
Despite a reported drop off in Insurtech investment in the first quarter of the year – with funding at USD280 million, down US$500 million from the same quarter in 2016. According to figures from Startupbootcamp and PwC – the application of technology as a solution to deliver growth remains a priority for many businesses around the world.
Technology investments may be relatively small, such as the acquisition of Ireland’s Blink Innovation by the UK’s CPP Group for around USD1 million in March, especially in comparison to the value of the larger, big-ticket M&A. However, they retain strategic importance and considerable potential: in one example Zhong An Online Property and Casualty Insurance, China's first online-only insurer, is expected to raise USD1 billion in an initial public offering later this year, just three years after start-up.
Disposals a key driver
The rise of broker facilities and an increasing number of managing general agents entering the market is putting additional pressure on insurers and may result in an increasing number of businesses being put up for sale. “The environment hasn’t got any easier for insurers in the last six months,” said Holderness.
“Investment returns remain under pressure and abundant liquidity in the market means there’s little room to differentiate on price. One key area left in which to generate value is by addressing the cost structure and we will continue to see deals – such as Sompo’s acquisition of Endurance, the largest of the year so far – driven by a combination of desire to broaden international reach as well as to generate economies of scale.”
As markets become less exposed to political and economic uncertainty, the volume of M&A is expected to stabilize or rebound in the second half of the year as insurers continue to drive for growth and new sources of value.