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UPDATE 3-Generali lifts Aviva Poland bid in battle with NN, sources say

(Adds details on Allianz)

MILAN, March 25 (Reuters) - Italian insurer Generali has nudged up its bid for Aviva’s Polish arm, valuing the business at almost 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion), in a last-ditch effort to prevail over Dutch insurer NN, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

London-listed insurer Aviva received three binding bids on March 22 for its Polish operations, with NN submitting the highest offer, which valued the unit at about 2.5 billion euros, the sources said.

German insurer Allianz and Generali - which have existing operations in Poland - were given a final chance this week to improve their bids, the sources added.

Allianz also improved its offer as it sees the Aviva unit as a strategic asset that will give the winner an edge in Poland and central Europe, two separate sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Aviva is expected to enter exclusive talks with one of the three bidders in the coming days, they said.

A spokesperson for Aviva said the British insurer was exploring options for Poland but no decision had been made.

Generali, NN and Allianz declined to comment.

Aviva is the second largest life insurer in Poland after state-owned PZU and the tenth biggest provider of general insurance in the country. Its Polish business also includes two key bancassurance partnerships with Santander and ING.

Generali initially valued the Polish business at just over 2 billion euros only to sweeten its bid on March 24, offering close to 2.5 billion euros, the sources said.

NN immediately offered about 2.5 billion euros, while Allianz improved its initial offer, which was more than 2 billion euros, after the March 22 deadline to keep up with the other contenders, the sources said.

“They wouldn’t stop early when they have gone so far,” a source familiar with the German insurer’s strategy said.

Aviva, whose boss Amanda Blanc is about to complete an ambitious asset divestment programme in Europe, wanted to take advantage of the competitive environment and has given the three bidders an opportunity to make their final offers this week.

For Generali, the deal would serve as a springboard to Poland - a market seen by boss Philippe Donnet as core to the company’s expansion, with the Italian insurer recently saying it would consider any growth opportunity there.

“Aviva is the real winner in this auction as the price is going through the roof,” one of the sources said.

Panmure Gordon analysts initially estimated the sale of Aviva’s remaining European assets in Poland and Italy would be worth 2.1 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) overall.

Aviva sold its life insurance businesses in Italy to France’s CNP Assurances for 543 million euros on March 4.

It also pocketed 3.2 billion euros from the sale of its French operations to Macif’s Aéma Groupe in February and an additional 122 million pounds from flipping its 40% stake in a joint venture in Turkey to Ageas Insurance International.

($1 = 0.8470 euros)

$1 = 0.7292 pounds Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia, Stephen Jewkes and Agnieszka Barteczko; additional reporting by Gianluca Semeraro, Carolyn Cohn and Alex Huebner; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Mark Potter and Edmund Blair

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