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AIG may sell US auto unit to Zurich: source

  American International Group Inc is close to a deal to sell its US auto insurance business to Swiss insurer Zurich Financial Services for roughly $1.5 billion, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

A deal could be announced soon, the source said, but added that it had not been finalized and things could still fall apart. If a sale does happen, it would be the largest for the insurer since its rescue by the US government in September. The unit being sold includes the 21st Century Insurance business, which AIG took over in 2007 when it bought out the minority stakeholders.

The auto insurance business is part of AIG’s US personal lines unit, which also includes selling products to high net-worth individuals through its AIG Private Client division. AIG CEO Edward Liddy has previously said that the private client division is not being sold.

US taxpayers have taken a roughly 80% stake in AIG, once the world’s largest insurer, in exchange for providing up to $180 billion in financial support. The company is trying to sell off assets in a bid to pay back the government, but it has struggled to find buyers for big-ticket items.

Last week Liddy said AIG had reached agreements to sell 10 businesses, “despite the most challenging market environment in memory.” These include the sale of HSB Group to German reinsurer Munich Re for $742 million and its Canadian life insurance unit to Bank of Montreal for about C$375 million. AIG and Zurich declined to comment. (Reuters)