French insurance giant Axa sells off Bluefin brokerage as UK disposals continue

Axa has sold its insurance brokerage Bluefin in a £295m deal that marks its latest withdrawal from the British market


The French group has owned Bluefin for about a decade but struggled to sustain profitable growth, and is selling the firm to rival brokerage Marsh.

The sale marks Axa’s latest step back from Britain and other European countries as it looks to expand in faster-growing regions. While the firm continues to offer car and personal insurance here, it sold off its life insurance business to Phoenix and Standard Life in a series of deals earlier this year.

Bluefin turned over £122m last year by selling personal and business insurance from various providers across the UK. It posted a pre-tax profit of £1.2m in that year, compared to a £7.2m loss in the prior one, after a series of acquisitions to improve its reach.

Axa sold off some of Bluefin’s financial planning business in 2013 but maintained that it was committed to insurance broking.

France's biggest insurer said the deal, which is set to complete in the first quarter of 2017, will result in a €66m (£56m) dent in its profits.

Mark Weil, Marsh’s chief executive for the UK and Ireland, said his firm had been keen on buying Bluefin for several years, and chose to buy rival Jelf last year after its informal interest for Bluefin was rebuffed.

“It goes back quite a while in terms of our interest, and Axa has got to the point where they are ready to make a decision. From Marsh’s point of view, this is a long-term play,” he said.

Axa created Bluefin in 2006 after buying a wealth manager and an insurance broker, but struggled to marry the businesses. It wrote down £62m in the unit in 2010 after restructuring the private client business, and sold off some elements in 2013.

“As market dynamics have evolved and our own strategy has progressed, it has become increasingly apparent that Bluefin’s ability to achieve its potential would be better served under a new parent,” said Amanda Blanc, chief executive of Axa’s business in the UK and Ireland.

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