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Storebrand to Buy SSP Insurance Group

Norwegian financial group Storebrand on Monday announced a deal to buy Sweden's Handelsbanken's insurance and pensions subsidiary SSP for 18 billion Swedish kronor (1.9 billion euros; $2.65 billion), creating the Nordic region's leading life insurance and pensions provider.

"Storebrand is taking an important step that gives the company a more international and robust platform for profitable growth," said Storebrand chairman Leiv Nergaard.

Storebrand shares fell 5.7% to 84.6 kroner (10.57 euros; $14.34) in early trading on the Oslo stock exchange, while Handelsbanken's A-shares rose 5.74% to 202.50 Swedish kronor (21.61 euros; $29.78) on the Stockholm bourse.

SSP has about 660 employees. The group claimed a 10.2% share of the Swedish work pension market in 2006, and had 7.4 billion Swedish kronor (790 million euros; $1.08 billion) in premium revenues last year.

"This is an excellent deal for everyone concerned," said Handlesbanken chief executive Par Boman in a news release.

The deal is subject to Swedish regulatory approval, and includes and option allowing Storebrand to buy Handlesbanken's remaining occupational pension portfolio within two years.

Storebrand, with a staff of about 1,450 people, is a major player in Norwegian long-term savings and insurance. It collected about 16.6 billion kroner (2.1 billion euros; $2.81 billion) in premiums last year.