UPDATE 1-Apollo, JC Flowers expected to bid for Hartford's Japan unit -sources
-sources@ (Updates with comment from Apollo)
NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Private equity firms J.C. Flowers & Co and Apollo Global Management are among a handful of companies expected to bid for Hartford Financial Services Group Inc 's Japanese annuity business, three people familiar with the situation told Reuters this week.
Second round bids for the business are due next week, said the people, who wished to remain anonymous because they are not permitted to speak to the media. Hartford has tapped Deutsche Bank to handle the sales process, the sources said.
Over the past several months, Hartford's CEO Liam McGee has been focused on moving the company out of annuities to focus on more property casualty, which is considered to be a more stable and less risky business.
In June, the company announced an agreement to sell its U.K. variable annuity business for $285 to Berkshire Hathaway .
A Hartford spokesman declined to comment on any sales process, but reiterated previous statements the firm has made that the risk profile of the legacy variable annuity block has significantly improved as a result of actions the company has taken and market improvements.
"Any transactions would be evaluated by balancing the sales price and underlying economics with the capital that would be released," the spokesman said in an emailed statement.
A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman and Apollo spokesman declined to comment. A spokesperson for J.C. Flowers could not be reached for comment.
It could not be determined how much the Japanese business could sell for, but one source estimated that it could be between $750 million to $1 billion.
Hartford's Japanese unit had 372,000 variable annuity contracts, with $24.2 billion in assets as of June 30, according to an August investor presentation. The company had another $62.3 billion of annuities in the U.S., according to the presentation.
Variable annuities are insurance contracts that guarantee the investor a minimum monthly payment. They are usually used for retirement planning.
A growing number of insurers have been selling their life and annuity businesses because low interest rates make it more difficult to run these businesses profitably.
In April, AXA SA sold its U.S. life insurance unit to Protective Life Corp for $1.06 billion .
In December, Sun Life Financial Inc sold its variable annuity business to Delaware Life Holdings, a company owned by clients and shareholders of Guggenheim Partners. The Sun Life unit was valued at $1.35 billion.
(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Bernard Orr)