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INDIANAPOLIS-The possible sale of Acordia Inc.'s property/casualty brokerage business has the market wondering who that potential buyer could be.

Acordia's property/casualty business accounted for a little more than half of its $661 million in 1996 revenues, which would still place the Indianapolis-based company among the world's 12-largest brokers.

Anthem Insurance Cos. Inc., which owns 67% of Acordia, said it is hoping to capitalize on the recent merger and acquisition activity in the brokerage industry, as it focuses on health care business.

But it is that consolidation among the world's largest brokers coupled with Acordia's size that has some market observers skeptical that a domestic broker would emerge as a potential buyer. Instead, they speculate, a more likely scenario would be a foreign broker or a company outside the brokerage industry offers to buy Acordia.

"It's hard to envision who the prospective buyer is going to be," noted Timothy J. Cunningham, a principal with Insight Management Consulting Group in Westchester, Ill. "I don't see a domestic broker necessarily jumping to the head of the pack because of (Acordia's) size and because of the nature and complexion of Acordia.

"It essentially is a good middle-market broker, but it doesn't have an unusual strategic element that might be attractive to a buyer," Mr. Cunningham said.

"It may be possible a foreign buyer will emerge, but again, it's hard to envision who that might be," he said. "It may end up being someone outside the brokerage business."

"We know a number of business units of Acordia that are very fine assets," said John Wicher, managing director for Russell Miller Inc. in San Francisco.

"I would think Acordia will be attractive. I can't tell you who to. . . but in a no-growth market, acquisitions will play a key strategy for well-capitalized brokers," he noted.

"Will the mid-market commercial book look attractive to U.S. financial players? Maybe not," said Mr. Wicher. But, he added, it might be appealing to a foreign financial player.

One broker not interested in buying Acordia's property/casualty operations is Hilb, Rogal & Hamilton Co., the world's 18th-largest broker.

"Obviously we've read about it," said Robert H. Hilb, chairman and CEO of the Glen Allen, Va.-based broker. "We had a short meeting about it and decided it was nothing we'd probably have an interest in because of the size we perceive the P/C piece to be."

"I don't know any (broker) above (Acordia) that. . .has the ability to pay for it," Mr. Hilb noted.

While Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. and Aon Group Inc. have the money, they "have too much on their plates" right now, he said.