Oct 31 (Reuters) - Global insurance mergers and acquisitions rose to 37 billion euros in the first six months of 2018, with a host of mega deals resulting in the highest first-half total since the financial crisis, a report by Willis Towers Watson and Mergermarket showed.
The first half saw 14 insurance deals worth over 500 million euros ($567.80 million), but total deal volume fell to 84 deals, the lowest number since 2009, the report showed.
The report cited the changing nature of business models as a driver for deals, with regulatory pressures leading to new models and more firms trying to return to their core strategy.
The report also said companies are divesting unwanted parts of their business, meaning that valuable assets are once again on the market. The report included completed deals with a value of at least $5 million.
For private equity investors, record levels of inflow – with cash reserves reaching $1 trillion in 2017 – has driven interest in insurance assets, leading to complex acquisitions from these buyers in 2018.
Private equity firm Bain Capital agreed to buy esure for 1.21 billion pounds in August, ending over two years of speculation around the British insurer being a takeover target for U.S. private equity firms.
According to the report regulatory change has played a big role in the U.S., as tax reform in the country has provided an immediate boost to company earnings since the turn of the year.
"Debt continues to be cheap, and following the recent tax reforms, U.S. companies have been given a steroid kick. We will continue to see an active M&A market," Managing Director at Willis Towers Watson Jack Gibson, said.
"It's just a matter of paying the right price and overcoming the hurdles that have led to deals taking longer to consummate and perhaps driving the lower number of deals this year."
Earlier in September, U.S. financial services group Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc agreed to buy Jardine Lloyd Thompson valuing the British insurance and reinsurance broker at about 4.3 billion pounds.
The report highlighted growing investment from Asian companies, but said political and economic uncertainty could affect global dealmaking, with volatility surrounding Britain's impending exit from the European Union and trade tensions between Beijing and Washington threatening appetites.
The period also saw seven deals in the reinsurance sector and Swiss Re expects the global reinsurance industry to consolidate as the distinction between insurers and reinsurers become increasingly blurred.
$1 = 0.8806 euros Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr