August 26, 2014

SC BlueCross sells insurance subsidiary to Bermuda-based company

Enstar plans to buy Companion Property and Casualty from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina by the end of the year.

Companion Property and Casualty Insurance Co., a 30-year-old Columbia insurer, is being sold to a Bermuda-based company. But at least a portion of its jobs are expected to remain in South Carolina, officials said.

Enstar Group Limited said Tuesday it will buy Companion from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina for $218 million. Companion sells property, casualty, specialty and workers compensation insurance.

Companion has 200 employees, including 170 based in South Carolina, according to Patti Embry-Tautenhan, director of corporate relations for BlueCross. Companion has been part of BlueCross since the subsidiary was formed in 1984.

“It’s expected that Enstar will retain a portion of the existing workforce while also restructuring other jobs,” Embry-Tautenhan said.

It was unclear Tuesday how many jobs Enstar would retain. Some Companion employees who are displaced may find jobs within other parts of BlueCross BlueShield, she said.

“We are in discussions with Enstar regarding a proposed lease of the existing office” on Clemson Road in Northeast Richland, Embry-Tautenhan said. “We understand that it’s Enstar’s intention to remain in Columbia at least for the foreseeable future.”

The property-and-casualty insurer will operate in the future under a different name because BlueCross owns the Companion brand, she said.

BlueCross is selling Companion because “the property-and-casualty business is very competitive and capital intensive and ... does not fit within our strategic-growth plans,” Embry-Tautenhan said

Efforts to reach a Enstar spokesperson were unsuccessful Tuesday.

“We are pleased to announce our agreement to acquire Companion, which continues the successful expansion of our property-and-casualty business in the U.S.,” Dominic Silves, chief executive officer of Enstar, said in a statement.

Enstar said in its release that it is evaluating policy renewals and some could be renewed under its Torus subsidiary. Companion has policies throughout the country. Embry-Tautenhan did not know how many policies the company currently holds.

Enstar and its subsidiaries buy and manage a range of insurance businesses through a network of service companies in Bermuda, the United States, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Australia and other international locations, the company said. Enstar has bought more than 60 companies and portfolios since its formation in 2001.

The sale, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of the year. Enstar is publicly traded on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ESGR. It’s stock spiked on the news Tuesday, rising to almost $148 a share, before closing at $145.90, up 30 cents.

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