Irish Life ‘committed’ to growing health insurance arm

Irish Life has said it is committed to increasing its share of the health insurance market here, but remained tight-lipped on potential M&A activity.

The life-and-pensions group had a five-year strategic growth plan approved by its Canadian parent, Great-West Lifeco, less than two months ago.

As part of that, Irish Life will create 150 jobs this year.

Giving an overview of the group’s progress, Irish Life CEO Bill Kyle, yesterday said that part of the success was due to associate firms, like health insurer, GloHealth, in which the group owns a 49% stake.

Currently the fourth largest player in the market, with a 5% share, GloHealth has been mentioned as a possible buyer of Aviva’s Irish health insurance division, which looks set to be sold after investment bank, Macquarie, was drafted in late last year to advise on strategic options.

The business, 70% owned by Aviva and 30% by AIB, has 300,000 customers, 120 staff, and an estimated value of anything between €50m and €100m.

Asked yesterday whether Irish Life/GloHealth has made an offer for Aviva Health, Mr Kyle replied “no comment”, but said that Irish Life sees the health insurance sector here as “a very attractive market,” adding “we are very committed to growing GloHealth.”

Nearly 12 months ago, Mr Kyle suggested Irish Life could be interested in significantly upping its ownership in GloHealth, into a majority holding, “over the next four to five years”, as the business continues to grow.

Most recent available figures from Great-West Lifeco showed that Irish Life contributed €27.4m to the Canadian group’s profits in the third quarter of last year.

While in line with expectations, it was still down 52% on a year-on-year basis, albeit due to previous-year exceptional investment gains.

Mr Kyle yesterday said that the group sees Irish Life as a template, in terms of customer focus, innovation and regulatory adherence.


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