Axa has just agreed to buy Bermuda-based XL Group for $15.3bn in a move which will accelerate US IPO plans

Lucy White
Axa CEO Thomas Buberl said the deal was a "unique strategic opportunity" (Source: Getty)

France's largest insurance group, Axa, has today agreed to buy New York-listed property and casualty commercial lines insurer XL Group for $15.3bn (£11.1bn).

Calling the acquisition of the Bermuda-based business a "major leap forward in Axa's strategic journey", Axa promised it would now accelerate its exit from its existing US operations.

It hopes that the planned float of its US operations, which are now expected in the first half of this year, and further sell-downs will "gear Axa further towards technical margins less sensitive to financial markets" by 2020.

Read more: Axa in talks with US insurer XL over £60bn deal

"The transaction offers significant long-term value creation for our stakeholders with increased risk diversification, higher cash remittance potential and reinforced growth prospects," said Axa's chief executive Thomas Buberl.

The future Axa will see its profile significantly rebalanced towards insurance risks and away from financial risks.

XL's shareholders will get $57.60 per share – a 33 per cent premium to the group's share price before the deal was announced.

The Bermuda-based insurer and reinsurer generated $15bn of gross written premiums last year, and has around 7,400 staff worldwide.

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Axa added that the merging of XL's business with its own would complement and diversify its existing commercial lines portfolio, while bringing reinsurance capabilities that will open up access to alternative capital.

Together, the businesses will have 2016 revenues of €30bn (£27bn) in property and casualty commercial lines, and €48bn in total property and casualty.

Axa will be paying the whole sum in cash, using €3.5bn of cash at hand, €6bn from the US initial public offering (IPO) and €3bn of debt.

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