US Life Insurer Phoenix Cos. to Sell Ultra High-Net-Worth Private-Placement Business
January 11, 2010 by Frank Matso Lysiak
The deal, which also includes PFG’s subsidiaries — Philadelphia Financial Group Inc. and AGL Life Assurance Co. — is expected to close in the second quarter, Phoenix (NYSE: PNX) said. Terms of the transaction, subject to regulatory approvals and other conditions, weren’t disclosed.
The private-placement business is life insurance products and annuities designed for the “ultra high-net-worth” and institutional markets, said Alice Ericson, a spokeswoman for the Hartford, Conn.-based Phoenix.
The company is selling this business as part of its strategic repositioning, she said. Phoenix is seeing other growth opportunities in other market segments besides the high net worth, including the mass affluent and middle market, Ericson said, pointing to products such as universal life and fixed and indexed annuities.
Management at PFG will continue with the company. “This sale of our private placement business is part of our strategic repositioning to focus on the markets and products where we have the greatest potential for sustainable growth in addition to strengthening our capital position,” said James D. Wehr, Phoenix’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement.
In an interview with BestWire in early 2009, Wehr was optimistic about the company’s strategy that includes building new distribution channels as a way to resolve some financial strength issues at that time (BestWire, May 4, 2009).
Wehr, formerly Phoenix’s chief investment officer and senior executive vice president, took over as president and CEO in April, succeeding Dona D. Young, who retired from Phoenix after 29 years.
In March of 2009, Phoenix said it was building its future business in ways that will be “less capital intensive and ratings sensitive.”
Around that time, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. told the company that it would suspend sales of its life insurance and variable annuities because of downgrades by rating agencies to Phoenix’s life insurance subsidiaries (BestWire, March 4, 2009). Soon after, A.M. Best Co. downgraded the financial strength rating to B++ (Good) from A (Excellent) of Phoenix’s core life insurance entities (BestWire, March 10, 2009).
On the morning of Jan. 11, Phoenix Cos. stock was trading at $2.98 a share, up 2.41% from the previous close.
AGL Life Assurance Co. currently has a Best’s Financial Strength Rating of B++ (Good).
(By Fran Matso Lysiak, senior associate editor, BestWeek: email@example.com)