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INDIANAPOLIS-In a move that could signal still more brokerage consolidation, Anthem Insurance Cos. Inc. announced late last week that it has retained Credit Suisse First Boston to explore the possible sale of its Acordia Inc. subsidiary's property/casualty brokerage business.

Anthem, an Indianapolis-based mutual insurer with pending merger agreements with the Blue Cross & Blue Shield plans in New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut, owns 67% of the world's seventh-largest broker.

Recently, however, Anthem has focused exclusively on health and managed care business and has gradually sold non-health care operations.

In 1996, a little more than half of Acordia's $661 million in revenues were derived from property/casualty brokerage business. The remaining revenues were derived from the sale and servicing of Anthem life and health insurance products. Credit Suisse First Boston is exploring the possible reorganization of Acordia's health business.

"We are extremely proud of the brokerage business which Acordia has built," L. Ben Lytle, president and chief executive officer of Anthem, said in a release. "Historically, it has financially outperformed its competitors. However, we have determined, preliminarily, that the property/casualty brokerage business and the structure of the current business relationship between Anthem and Acordia may no longer be consistent with Anthem's mission. Therefore we believe that in light of the brokerage industry consolidation, that now may be an opportune time to capitalize on the value of Acordia's brokerage business."

Frank C. Witthun, president and CEO of Acordia, is optimistic about Acordia's future.

With a continued focus on the middle market, Acordia has gained significant market share over the years by acquiring such brokers as Robinson-Conner Inc., American Business Insurance Inc., Pettit Morry Cos. and Bain Hogg Robinson Inc.

"We've got a very good management though our acquisitions and feel confident we will keep our management," Mr. Witthun said.

Acordia hopes to capitalize on the brokerage consolidation movement that has occurred in the recent year, Mr. Witthun said.

Acordia could be of interest to a foreign buyer or a buyer "outside the realm of an (insurance) industry partner," he said.

What Acordia is not interested in is a management buyout. "There is no intention of management to lead an effort" in that direction, said Keith A. Maib, Acordia's executive vp and chief financial officer.