UPDATE 1-Sun Life to buy U.S. insurer Assurant's unit for $975 mln

Wed Sep 9, 2015 6:14pm EDT
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Sept 9 (Reuters) - Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial Inc said it would buy New York-based insurer Assurant Inc's employee-benefits business for $975 million, creating the sixth largest group benefits business in the United States.

The deal is expected to help Sun Life's U.S. group benefits business to grow by more than 50 percent to about $4 billion, the company said on Wednesday.

Assurant had said in April it was looking at strategic alternatives for its employee benefits business as it narrowed its focus to niche housing and lifestyle protection offerings.

Shares of Assurant, which boosted its buyback program by $750 million and raised its quarterly dividend, were up 1.6 percent at $74.49 in extended trading.,

Sun Life, Canada's third-largest life insurer, has been expanding its business through acquisitions.

The company bought U.S.-based investment management company Prime Advisors Inc and real estate investment manager Bentall Kennedy Group, both in June.

Sun Life acquired New York-based Ryan Labs Asset Management in January.

Upon closing of the Assurant deal - expected by the end of first quarter - Sun Life Financial U.S. will provide services to about 64,000 employers, the company said.   Continued...