Belfast Telegraph

US-based insurer decides Midas is golden opportunity

By Margaret Canning

An insurance firm based in Chicago has snapped up a Co Down underwriter in its first acquisition on the island of Ireland. Ryan Speciality Group subsidiary Ryan Direct Group (RDG) paid an undisclosed sum for Midas Underwriting in Newtownards, which employs 51 people.

It is the first new corporate deal affecting a Northern Ireland company in 2016.

Midas's registered office is in Chelmsford, Essex, but its main office is in Newtownards.

The company had turnover of £22m in the year to the end of April and has gross written premium of £30m on its books, covering the UK and Ireland markets.

Derek Coles, chief executive of RDG, said the new firm will boost its business in home, motor and commercial insurance.

"The Midas book complements our existing portfolio in small to medium businesses, property owners and landlords, and additionally supports our medium-term aim of creating a balanced commercial and personal lines book," he added.

It is the first big insurance deal for Northern Ireland in two years, since Liberty Insurance in Boston bought Hughes Insurance, also in Newtownards.

Alan Hunter, the managing director of Midas, said the deal was "a huge vote of confidence in our business and our people.

"It strengthens our position as a leading player in the Northern Ireland and Irish market, and will give us added financial strength to accelerate growth under the RSG brand," he added.

The Midas business includes small business, commercial vehicles and home and motor policies.

The deal will be completed over the first few months of the year, and the acquired business will be chaired by Paul Donaldson, a non-executive director of RDG.

Ryan Speciality Group was founded in 2010 by US insurance veteran Patrick D Ryan. He was the founder of Aon Corporation and is a funder of the Republican Party. His latest acquisition is the first of this year.

Ryan Direct Group already employs 475 people across offices in Doncaster, London, Manchester, Preston and Elland.

According to information firm Experian, the number of big business deals increased by more than 50% last year, buoyed by the sale of Moy Park and broadcaster UTV.

There were a total of 165 transactions, a jump of 59% over 2014's total of 104. As expected with such a huge increase in deal numbers, the overall value of transactions recorded rose from around £1.72bn in 2014 to £1.88bn.

The largest deal last year was the sale of Moy Park to the Brazilian firm JBS, for £946m. And UDG Healthcare - which includes Sangers in Northern Ireland - was sold to global firm McKesson for £298m.

UTV's sale to ITV was the third largest deal of the year, at £100m. John-George Willis, head of the corporate department at law firm Tughans, said sectors such as IT, engineering and agri-business had dominated in deal-making in recent years.

Belfast Telegraph