(Bloomberg) – American International Group Inc. may be back in the market for large-scale deals.
The insurer was in talks to buy Voya Financial Inc. in a transaction valued at more than $10 billion before negotiations fell apart in November over the price, according to people familiar with the matter.
It’s unclear whether the discussions will be renewed, said the people, who asked not to be identified talking about possible purchases. But they signal AIG Chief Executive Officer Brian Duperreault’s interest in completing big transactions after years of retrenching and cost-cutting following the company’s near demise during the financial crisis.
“I want us to be better and better balanced and have more diversification on earnings stream,” Duperreault told analysts in a November conference call. In thinking of deals, “My first thought is, is it strategic? Is it something that makes us better? Do we get better people or better technology or better market penetration?”
Voya’s shares climbed 4.4% to a record high of $52.75 at 2:03 p.m. in New York and have gained 30% in the past year. AIG advanced 1.4% to $61.10.
Duperreault joined AIG in May of 2017 after the firm tussled with activist investors, who were pushing for a break up of the insurer. In his first earnings call as CEO, Duperreault said he would use excess capital for improving the business and pursuing acquisitions. Billionaire Carl Icahn, who won representation on the company’s board, eased off his demands for asset sales to give the executive a chance to execute his plans, people familiar with the investor’s thinking have said.
Duperreault has said he would consider transactions in areas such as life insurance, international markets, personal lines and small- to middle-market U.S. firms. It’s a shift for AIG, which had sold nearly $100 billion of assets since 2008, first to repay a government bailout and then to streamline operations. U.S. regulators also decided in September that AIG would no longer be labeled a systemically important financial institution, clearing the way for the insurer to expand.
Cindy Leggett-Flynn, a spokeswoman for New York-based AIG, declined to comment, as did Voya’s Christopher Breslin.
Voya also has gone through a transformation. CEO Rodney Martin in December struck a deal to offload $54 billion of volatile insurance obligations to investors including Apollo Global Management LLC, sending the insurer’s shares to a record high.
AIG wasn’t aware of those plans while negotiating its deal last year, and the Apollo sale may now make Voya a more attractive takeover candidate to a wider array of suitors, the people said.
Martin, who previously was an AIG executive, has been scaling back some businesses and cutting risks since the company split off from Dutch insurer ING Groep NV. The firm agreed in 2015 to sell $90 billion of life policies to Reinsurance Group of America Inc. to help free up capital. Voya has offered buyouts to customers for certain annuity products and exited a business to take on pension obligations from employers.
Voya’s December deal with Apollo, Crestview Partners and Reverence Capital Partners is expected to generate $500 million immediately, which will used for buybacks, and a $2.3 billion after-tax reduction to shareholders equity, the insurer said.