For the insurance business, bigger is most definitely better. The latest big deal is a $15.3 billion offer from French insurance giant AXA for U.S.-traded XL Group Ltd. (NYSE: XL). The target company is an insurer and reinsurer based in Bermuda, and the acquisition would create a global leader in the property and casualty insurance sector.
The French firm also has planned an initial public offering (IPO) of its AXA Equitable Life business in the United States. AXA registered for the IPO last November at a placeholder amount of $100 million. The deal is expected to be valued at around $3 billion when it finally happens — now expected in the first half of this year.
The impact on consumers, either for the XL Group acquisition or the Equitable Life IPO, is difficult to tease out. Property and casualty (P&C) insurance has become an acquisition target as financial market profits begin to be roiled by volatility.
Buying XL Group gets AXA into the commercial P&C business just months after one of the most damaging years ever in the United States: three major hurricanes, raging wildfires and flooding. Premiums will rise and there’s nothing like nice, steady premium payments to calm the rough waters left in the wake of volatile financial markets.
CEO Thomas Buberl has been touting AXA’s move toward products that require technical skill and regular customer contact. Computerized cross-selling and upselling, in other words. As the cost of P&C insurance rises, so do revenues and profits. It’s at that point that scale really matters. XL Group gives AXA that scale.