Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. has agreed to buy HSBC Insurance Brokers Ltd. of London for $216.9 million in cash and stock.

There had been speculation that Marsh, an insurance broker and risk adviser, wanted to purchase the HSBC Holdings PLC unit, but analysts expected a deal to be valued at $248 million to $330 million.

Marsh also announced a strategic partnership with HSBC that will give Marsh access to insurance brokerage and risk management services to HSBC's corporate and private clients.

"Acquiring HIBL is a great opportunity for Marsh, our clients, our colleagues and for the HIBL team," Dan Glaser, Marsh Inc.'s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press release Friday. "We are particularly excited by the opportunities available to us through the PSP [strategic partnership] with HSBC. It will enable us to leverage HSBC's global network and banking relationships to generate new business."

Clive Bannister, the group managing director of insurance for HSBC Holdings, said in the release, "The beauty of this agreement is that on the one hand we are improving the breadth and sophistication of HSBC broking services for our customers, while at the same time sharpening our strategic focus on the bancassurance model with emphasis on life, pensions and investments."

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