Fairfax to acquire QBE's Ukranian insurance operations

Tue Feb 3, 2015 5:17pm EST
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TORONTO Feb 3 (Reuters) - Canadian financial services holding company Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd said on Tuesday it has agreed to acquire the Ukranian insurance operations of Australia's QBE Insurance Group, expanding its presence in Eastern Europe.

Fairfax expects the deal to close in the second-quarter of 2015. It did not disclose a purchase price for the asset.

Two months ago Toronto-based Fairfax, headed by well known contrarian investor Prem Watsa, agreed to acquire QBE insurance operations in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

Fairfax said QBE's Ukranian operations have been profitable for over a decade and in 2014 the operation generated more than $5 million in profitable gross written premiums in a range of general insurance classes, including motor, property, marine, and general and product liability.

On closing, the asset will become part of Fairfax Eastern Europe under the leadership of its President, Peter Csakvari.

"This is a terrific opportunity for us to expand our operations in the region and continue to build Fairfax Eastern Europe's profitable businesses over the long-term," Watsa said in a statement.

Watsa is well known for betting on a turnaround in embattled smartphone pioneer BlackBerry Ltd , as well as investments in banks that were struggling in Greece and Ireland.

Fairfax said the QBE operations in Ukraine date back to the late 1990s and that it is very stable with high retention rates. The firm said despite the challenging conditions within Ukraine in 2014, the QBE operations there grew by about 20 percent. (Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Grant McCool)