Wednesday 12 March 2014

Agnelli family said to be in talks to buy 20pc of Swiss Re

I think I might have landed another genuine scoop. Here it is:

I understand a trust controlled by Italy's Agnelli family has been holding talks with Swiss Re about buying a 20pc stake in the insurance giant worth up to 8bn Swiss Francs.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the Agnelli family trust is planning to buy the 20pc stake in Swiss Re by making a 'tender offer' to all shareholders with an agreement from the Swiss Re board.

The tender offer for the shareholding in Swiss Re could be announced as early as this Monday, said my sources.

The Agnelli family - whose members own stakes in Juventus Football Club and some of Italy's largest companies, such as Fiat - has been in talks with Swiss Re about the deal for the last three months, according to my well-placed sources.

I have been told the Agnelli family trust is willing to offer to between 95 Swiss Francs and 100 Swiss Francs a share for the 20pc stake in Swiss Re.

If the deal is successful, the Agnelli family trust is likely to get some seats on the Swiss Re board.

The Agnelli family's interest in acquiring a stake in Swiss Re follows Warren Buffett's successful investment in the European reinsurance market.

The legendary American investor started building a significant stake in Munich Re, Swiss Re's biggest rival, in 2010 and by 2012 Mr Buffett had increased his shareholding to 11pc.

Mr Buffett is thought to have generated a decent return on his investment as Munich Re shares have risen significantly over the last four years.

Betaville readers need to be aware that yesterday evening I contacted Swiss Re and one of the Agnelli family investment vehicles, Exor, but have not yet had a response from either party to my story. So please read this story in that context.

Also, Betaville readers should understand that Swiss Re is not governed by the UK Takeover Panel rules as it is a Swiss company.

I know this a statement of the blindingly obvious but I am just making the point as some readers may expect a formal confirmation following the publication of this article. That, though, may not necessarily happen given Swiss Re operates in a different regulatory environment.


Both Swiss Re and Exor, one of the Agnelli's vehicles, have gone on the record to formally deny they are in talks about the 20pc stake deal.

Here is the link to statement from Swiss Re: Exor's spokesperson also eventually responded to my request for comment from last night to deny the talks.

Egg on face for me, I guess.

Or, perhaps I should take take it is a compliment that one-man blog run by a freelance (another word for unemployed) business journalist has managed to tease out denial statements from a Swiss company with a SWF 30bn market cap and one of Italy's richest families.  

Still, I am genuinely surprised by the denials as the sourcing is really very good. And those market watchers who have followed my work closely over the last decade know that I rarely get these type of stories wrong.

So, what's happened here? I am going to find out and update loyal Betaville readers in due course. The update may not come tomorrow but it should come in the next few weeks.  


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