A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

Inside Money: Tower life rumoured to be in Fidelity's hands

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

NZ-owned insurer, Fidelity Life, is understood to be closing in on the risk insurance business of rival, and one-time suitor, Tower.

Industry insiders have indicated Fidelity has almost finalised the deal, which would see it fulfill a long-term ambition of purchasing the Tower life insurance arm. One source said Fidelity was working with reinsurer, Swiss Re, to secure part of the funding for the deal.

If confirmed, the purchase would be a sweet reversal of fortune for Fidelity, which was on the receiving end of a hostile takeover offer from Tower in 2010.

The failed 2010 bid by Tower valued Fidelity at $118 million or $82 per share. Since the takeover offer, the tightly-held Fidelity shares, which were trading in the mid $75-$80 range, have remained above $90 with the current price set at $95.

Tower, whose major shareholder is GPG, has been widely tipped to sell down assets, with rumours of further sales strengthened after the group sold its medical insurance business to Australian firm nib last November for over $100 million.

In its latest annual report released on December 21 last year, Tower interim chairman, Stephen Smith, confirmed the group was weighing up a number of offers as a result of a strategic review.

"The Board is considering several other proposals for merger, divestment, or operational alliances," Smith says in the chairman's report, "and our goal is to determine an outcome from these ahead of the next Annual Shareholder Meeting."

It is believed a number of parties are also bidding for the Tower investments and KiwiSaver business, including Fisher Funds and several (maybe all) Australian-owned banks.

The Tower annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for March 21.

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A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

David is a freelance journalist who has covered the financial services business on both sides of the Tasman for over 15 years. He is the editor of industry website Investment News. David has edited magazines and websites for the financial advice, investment and superannuation industries.

Read more by David Chaplin

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