NEW YORK, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Switzerland's Zurich Insurance
Group AG is in advanced talks to acquire MetLife Inc's
U.S. property and casualty (P&C) car and home insurance
unit for close to $4 billion, according to people familiar with
Zurich Insurance issued a statement late on Friday
confirming it was in discussions to acquire MetLife's U.S.
property and casualty business and cautioning that no deal was
certain. It did not comment on the value of the deal.
The deal, executed through its Farmers Group Inc subsidiary,
would expand Zurich Insurance's P&C business, as the industry
grapples with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which drove up
claims for business interruptions and event cancellations.
It would also allow MetLife to exit a business in which it
faces fierce competition from larger players such as State Farm,
GEICO and Progressive Insurance.
Its P&C business focuses more on car insurance, an area in
which people have made fewer claims due to spending less time on
the road during the pandemic.
If the negotiations conclude successfully, a deal could be
announced by early December, the sources said.
MetLife declined to comment.
MetLife, whose offerings also include life insurance,
employee benefits and asset management, earlier this month
reported a 68% drop in third-quarter adjusted earnings at its
U.S. property and casualty division, to $18 million.
The decline was driven by catastrophe losses caused by
storms in the United States, it said.
The New York-based company's chief executive, Michel Khalaf,
said during its latest quarterly earnings call that the P&C
business had "an important strategic connection" to the rest of
MetLife, but declined to comment on whether he would sell it.
MetLife has been turning to dealmaking to move into more
It said in September it would buy vision-care benefits
company Versant Health for $1.68 billion, which would make it
the third-largest vision insurer in the United States by
membership, and announced in December it would enter the pet
insurance market by acquiring PetFirst Healthcare.
Zurich Insurance's U.S. footprint currently includes Farmers
Group, an administrator of insurance policies for Farmers
Insurance. Zurich Insurance acquired Farmers Group in 1998,
while Farmers Insurance is owned by its policyholders.
Farmers Insurance was the fifth- and seventh-largest
provider of home and auto insurance, respectively, in the United
States in 2019, according to data provider S&P Global Market
Intelligence. MetLife was 14th and 18th, respectively.
(Reporting by David French in New York
Editing by Jan Harvey, Matthew Lewis and Sonya Hepinstall)