Third bidder circles loss-making Omega

TROUBLED Lloyd’s insurer Omega Insurance yesterday said it hoped to secure a buyer soon, as it posted a $49.1m (£30m) loss for the first half of the year.
The third bidder for Omega emerged yesterday as Mark Byrne, the founder of Bermuda-based insurer Flagstone Re and son of insurance scion Jack Byrne, who managed GE’s insurance business.

Byrne’s investment vehicle Haverford is understood to lead the list of keen bidders for Omega and has spent at least two months in discussions and raising capital to fund an offer for the insurer.

But other bidders, including Bregal Capital-backed private insurer Canopius and US group Barbican, have been in talks to buy Omega since January and the target’s board yesterday made it clear it wanted to move the discussions forward at pace.

“Omega has received a number of approaches that may lead to an offer being made for the company, and the directors will continue to review these approaches,” chief executive Richard Pexton said in a statement. “We are striving to conclude the process shortly.”

Industry sources said the delay in securing a buyer was in part due to the number and frequency of catastrophes over the past six months.

Omega took $51.3m of losses after reinsurance cover, and said the combination of earthquakes, tornadoes and floods had been exceptional.

But it emphasised that it had taken drastic action to de-risk its portfolio and position itself to perform better as rates rise.

The group’s shares bounced more than ten per cent in trading yesterday, closing up 8.2 per cent as investors took heart from the bid talk.

But Espirito Santo analyst Joy Ferneyhough said the continuing losses meant Omega’s prospects as a standalone company were weak.

“Investors may become more anxious if a formal bid is not forthcoming promptly,” she said.