Covea beefs up UK presence with move for insurance group

French mutual insurance giant Covea increased its presence in the UK market yesterday with the acquisition of Yorkshire’s Provident Insurance for an undisclosed sum.

The Halifax-based business employs more than 400 people and sells mainly personal motor insurance to nearly 500,000 customers, generating annual revenues of nearly £200m. Covea bought the company from a subsidiary of US financial services group, Ally Financial, formerly GMAC, which announced a year ago that Provident Insurance was up for sale.

GMAC paid £170m for Provident in 2007.

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Thierry Derez, chairman of Covea, said: “The activities of Provident Insurance are highly complementary to our existing UK operations.

“Known for its technical excellence, Provident Insurance represents a great opportunity for Covea to add to its international operations.”

It joins a UK portfolio including MMC Insurance and Swinton.

The company said the deal would strengthen Covea’s ability to “compete in this very competitive market”.

Asked if the acquisition would lead to any job losses, Sophie Bagdikian, director of communications at the Paris-based group, told the Yorkshire Post: “No redundancies as our UK businesses are very complementary.”

It is understood that Covea plans to maintain the UK brands as individual entities under its ownership.

Completion of the acquisition is subject to approval by the Financial Services Authority.

Covea is the market leader in France for property and liability insurance and has more than 10.6 million members and custom-ers.

Last year’s revenues were more than 13.5 billion euros, up four per cent on the previous year.

Provident Insurance was founded in 1966 as Halifax Insurance, offering motorcycle policies.

It pioneered specialist policies for female drivers.