Herbert Smith handles £1.75bn Swiss Re acquisition of M&G

Herbert Smith is advising giant reinsurance company Swiss Re which is splashing out £1.75 billion to buy rival Mercantile & General from parent group Prudential Corporation. Freshfields is acting for Prudential.

Commenting on the transaction, Herbert Smith partner Mark Satterly said: “This acquisition is part of a trend in the City which has seen a wave of consolidation among both reinsurers and direct insurance companies.”

The deal, which will make Swiss Re the world's largest reinsurer in the health and life market, needs approval from a clutch of regulatory authorities around the world. “We are not envisaging any major problems,” added Satterley.

But in overall size, it is expected that Munich Re will emerge as the largest reinsurance group after it has gobbled up American Re for £2.1 billion, a deal announced two weeks ago.

Satterly's team consists of Ross Fraser, James O'Shea and Richard Bursby. Freshfields' side was led by Philip Richards, supported by Martin Nelson-Jones, Tim Ling, Stephen McCleery and Patrick Davis.

Freshfields worked closely with Prudential's in-house legal team which was headed by Derek Councell and David Green.

Both firms have been heavily involved in the insurance sector recently, with Herbert Smith advising United Friendly on its merger with Refuge Group, and Freshfields acting for the Lloyd's of London insurance market.

Richards said: “Assuming we get the regulatory green light, everything should be tied up by the end of the year.”

Under the terms of the deal, the plan is for M&G to be integrated under the Swiss Re name and housed within a new business. The new division will be headed by John Coomber, a member of Swiss Re's executive management.