Friday, November 7, 2008

FSC approves Blue Cross deal - Now it's all up to Audley Shaw

Published: Friday November 7, 2008

Sagicor Life Jamaica has got the go-ahead from regulators to acquire Blue Cross of Jamaica's health insurance portfolio, but still needs the imprimatur of Finance Minister Audley Shaw before it can declare the transaction a done deal.

"This agreement has been approved by the Financial Services Commission and now awaits a vesting order from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to complete the process which will broaden the service offerings to former Blue Cross clients," said SLJ Chairman Dodridge Miller in a company statement issued Tuesday.

The Financial Gleaner understands that Sagicor made its final submission to the finance ministry just about a week or so ago.

In the normal course of events, Shaw's decision could be handed down within a month, giving Sagicor an early Christmas present.

"We are still waiting on the vesting order," said Karl Williams, assistant vice-president of Sagicor Jamaica on Thursday.

On the market

Blue Cross, which is controlled by Dr Henry Lowe, has been on the market for several years - hunted at different times by at least three suitors - and had come close to being sold before.

An earlier deal with National Commercial Bank, for example, was said to have been killed by regulators, but the FSC stamp of approval suggests that Sagicor Jamaica has hit the right note in its takeover bid.

But asked what put Sagicor's proposal over the top, Williams said that was a question for President Richard Byles.

Byles was off the island and unavailable for comment.

Sagicor has not disclosed the buy price, but Blue Cross pulls in some $2.6 billion in revenue annually, and has assets of $1.9 billion.

Within the Jamaican market, the diversified Sagicor Jamaica is number one of five life insurance companies, measured by the sheer volume of business done, while Blue Cross, whose business is solely in health insurance, is number four.

Source: Jamaica Gleaner

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