Bahrain’s Investcorp takes over Danish jewellery chain Georg Jensen

Bahrain’s alternative asset management firm Investcorp SA on Monday unveiled a USD140m (EUR109m) deal to buy Danish luxury retailer Georg Jensen A/S, saying it had teamed up with industry veteran and Nautica’s founder David Chu, who will become the firm’s creative director and co-chairman.

The agreement for the over 100-year old Georg Jensen was signed with the company’s current private equity owner Axcel Capital Partners.

The global luxury firm designs, manufactures and distributes jewellery, watches, fine silverware and high-end homeware which it sells through 94 fully-owned stores and three franchised outlets around the world. Georg Jensen, with some 1,200 staff and sales of around USD160m last year, belongs to the Royal Scandinavia Group which was acquired by Axcel in 2001.

Its CEO Ulrik Garde Due welcomed the deal, saying that under the ownership of Investcorp with vast experience in building luxury brands, his firm would be able to further enhance its global position as Scandinavia’s top luxury lifestyle brand.

Investcorp has pledged to take Georg Jensen to a global level together with the firm’s management and David Chu, Hazem Ben-Gacem, head of Investcorp’s European corporate investment business, noted. At completion of the deal, Guy Leymarie, former CEO of DeBeers Diamond Jewellers, Cartier International and Dunhil, will also become a member of Georg Jensen’s board, the buyer said.

According to Investcorp’s head of corporate communications, Firas El Amin, as cited by Reuters today, the price for Georg Jensen will be fully paid with working capital and capital expenditure facilities from Nordea Bank AB (STO:NDA-SEK).

With USD11.5bn worth of assets under management as of 30 June 2012, Investcorp has offices in London, New York and Bahrain.

UK insurance group Prudential acquires Thai life insurance firm Thanachart

British insurer Prudential plc (LON:PRU) on Monday said it would buy life insurer Thanachart Life Assurance Company Ltd, a fully-owned unit of Thai lender Thanachart Bank PCL, under an exclusive 15-year partnership with the bank to jointly expand their bank insurance operations in Thailand.

Prudential has agreed to pay GBP358m (USD576.15m/EUR447m) for Thanachart Life in cash at completion of the deal and an additional GBP10m 12 months after that, subject to post-closing adjustments, the buyer said.

The deal is in line with Prudential’s strategy to concentrate on high-growth markets in South East Asia, with Thailand targeted for substantial expansion. According to the group’s CEO Tidjane Thiam, Thailand is one of Prudential’s key target markets in South East Asia and the partnership with Thanachart Bank fits well into its multi-channel distribution strategy, while giving it a good position for the future.

Under the partnership, Prudential and Thanachart Bank will collaborate to offer a large range of life insurance protection and savings products across all branches, they said.

While as size the Thai life insurance market can compare to Indonesia and Malaysia, penetration is as low as 2.7%, allowing for significant long-term profitable growth opportunities, the buyer said. Between 2007 and 2011, market gross premium income in Thailand grew at an annual rate of 16%, with bank insurance accounting for 50% of life insurance first year premiums last year, up from 28% in 2007.

The addition of Thanachart Life, one Thailand’s top 10 life insurers with some one million policies in force, will immediately double Prudential Thailand’s market share, the buyer explained.

For its part, Thanachart Bank views the transaction with Prudential to help its strategy of offering top sector products and services, it said, adding that its employees will get additional training and sales tools, while its customers will gain access to a comprehensive portfolio of insurance and savings products.

Thanachart Bank claims the fifth place among the country’s retail banks with more than four million customers and over 630 branches.

Subject to regulatory clearance, the transaction is due to close in the first quarter of 2013.

US financial services firm MetLife sells mortgage unit to JP Morgan

US insurer MetLife Inc (NYSE:MET) said it had inked an accord to sell the mortgage servicing portfolio of its banking unit MetLife Bank NA to JPMorganChase Bank NA, part of financial major JPMorgan Chase & Company (NYSE:JPM).

MetLife did not reveal the terms of the deal, which has yet to receive regulatory clearance. The portfolio under the scope of the transaction stands at some USD70bn (EUR54.6bn).

On 24 October, in a regulatory filing, the insurer said it was pondering an offload of its mortgage servicing portfolio. MetLife decided last year that a banking holding company structure was no longer appropriate, in view of its strategic focus on insurance and employee benefits, and has since sealed deals to offload certain operations of the bank and discontinued writing residential mortgages. The firm’s entire retail banking operations, including mortgages, accounted for less than 2% of its overall operating earnings in 2011.

JPMorgan’s purchase of the portfolio is in line with its plan to beef up and expand its servicing business. As a result of the acquisition, the buyer will boosts its USD1.1trn servicing operations by over 5% and it will also be able to provide solutions to a further 350,000 clients.

MetLife hired K&L Gates LLP, Milestone Advisors LLC and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc as advisors on the deal.