AIG considering sale of UK operations, says report

Troubled insurer American International Group is understood to be planning to sell some of its UK operations in a bid to repay its debt to the US Government, it was reported today.

The group, which is the world's largest insurer and employs 3,000 people in this country, was saved from the brink of collapse by a $85bn (€61.5bn) loan from the US government in the middle of last month.

AIG announced on Friday that it now planned to focus on its main property and casualty general insurance business in the US and its foreign general insurance businesses, while it will also retain stakes in its international life insurance company.

But other businesses are being put up for sale in a bid to repay its massive debt to the Government, beginning with three Japanese life insurance companies.

AIG, which sponsors Manchester United, did not specify which other assets had been earmarked for disposal, but at least some of its UK operations are thought to be on the list, according to the Sunday Express newspaper.

AIG has 11 UK offices, including ones in Croydon, Reading, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow, and operations that include a life and pensions business, an investment management division and an insurance operation that specialises in kidnap, ransom and extortion.

It operates under three main brands in the UK - AIG UK, AIG Life and AIG Direct.

However, it also sells insurance through high street names such as Argos and Boots, while the firm underwrites product warrantees for John Lewis department stores.

Possible bidders for the UK assets if they are put up for sale are thought to be likely to include Axa, Zurich, Munich Re and HSBC.

No one from AIG could be contacted to comment on the report.

Meanwhile, insurer Prudential was reported to be interested in acquiring some of AIG's Asian assets, according to the Observer newspaper.

Prudential already has a large presence in Asia, where it operates 27 businesses in 13 different countries.

It runs both life insurance and asset management operations, although most of its growth so far has been organic, rather than through acquisitions.

AIG is understood to be the biggest foreign player in a number of markets on the continent including China, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

Prudential declined to comment on whether it was interested in the AIG businesses.

A spokesman said: "We do not comment on rumour and speculation."

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