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DUBLIN, Ireland -- Irish multiline insurer Hibernian Group P.L.C. plans to use the proceeds from the sale of a British subsidiary to make acquisitions in Ireland.
Hibernian last week sold its Hibernian Insurance U.K. Ltd. subsidiary to National Insurance & Guarantee Corp. Skandia, a subsidiary of Swedish insurance company Skandia A.B.
The sale, pending due diligence and regulatory approval, will yield 37 million Irish pounds ($54 million) for Hibernian.
Hibernian Insurance U.K.'s book of business is 50% auto and 50% commercial lines. The U.K. operation was developed around commercial insurer Hallmark Insurance Co. Ltd., which Hibernian acquired from Pearl Assurance P.L.C. in 1994.
Hallmark subsequently was integrated into Hibernian's branch network in February 1997, which until then had focused primarily on personal auto insurance. The operation was renamed Hibernian Insurance U.K. Ltd.
"We sold the operation because we did not have sufficient scale to make a success of the business," explained Cecil Hayes, Hibernian Group's finance director. The sale, he said, is "clean," with no long-term guarantee of the company's reserves. Hibernian Insurance U.K. posted a loss of 100,000 Irish pounds ($146,000) for the 1997 financial year.
"Right now, we are keen to make a major acquisition in the Republic of Ireland. Investments are also planned in our distribution network," said Mr. Hayes. With the cash from the sale of the U.K. insurer, Hibernian Group will have a reserve of 120 million Irish pounds ($176 million) to finance acquisitions in Ireland, he said.