Zurich Financial to Unify Shares In Bid to Bolster M&A Currency

ZURICH - Zurich Financial Services, Europe's sixth-biggest insurer, plans to adopt a single share structure in an attempt to boost its stock price and help it pursue acquisitions.Zurich's U.K. shares, created by the $18.7 billion merger in September 1998 of Zurich Insurance Co. and British American Tobacco PLC's financial units, have risen 14% since then, and the Swiss shares have risen 22%. Allianz AG, Europe's No. 2 insurer, has risen 63% in the period.

Chairman and chief executive Rolf Hueppi said the company wants to be active in industry consolidation. Zurich acquired Farmers Insurance Group, the third-biggest U.S. home and auto insurer, in its deal for British American Tobacco.

Analysts said Zurich Financial needs to make purchases to catch up with the likes of Allianz and France's Axa SA. Zurich has 35 million customers and annual premiums of $22.6 billion. Axa, Europe's biggest insurer, has more than twice as much in premiums.

Unifying its share structure should provide strategic flexibility and simplify the company's capital-raising efforts, Zurich said. Analysts said the move could also assist Zurich in its efforts to build its presence in the United States, in part through a U.S. share listing. The company said it expects to offer shares on the New York Stock Exchange no later than next year.

The unification is "very positive," said Daniela Heyduck, an analyst at HypoVereinsbank AG in Munich. "This will make a U.S. listing much easier." She rates Zurich "outperform."

- Bloomberg News


Fidelity Rehires Defector to Nvest To Be Chief of Retail Marketing

NEW YORK - Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest asset manager, said it has hired Neal Litvack, an executive vice president at Nvest LP, to be its top retail marketing executive.Mr. Litvack, 44, is to join Boston-based Fidelity next Monday in a post vacated when Stephen Cone left in January to join Citigroup Inc.'s SSB Citi Asset Management subsidiary. Mr. Litvack worked at Fidelity for a decade before leaving in 1996 to join Boston rival Nvest as head of retail marketing.

At Fidelity, Mr. Litvack is to oversee marketing for the company's "personal investments" group, which includes retail mutual funds. He is to report to Gail McGovern, who was named in January to succeed Gary Burkhead, who is retiring.

- Dow Jones

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