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Suriname company buys Gulf Insurance


PORT OF SPAIN , Trininidad, May 10, 2013 - Local insurance company Gulf Insurance Co Ltd is now officially part of Suriname’s largest insurance group Assuria.  Assuria was given clearance by the local Central Bank to acquire Gulf on March 26; on April 13 the company became the owner of Gulf; and final approval was given by the Surinamese Central Bank on April 26. 

Assuria has pumped $20 million worth of share capital into the company.

Assuria and Gulf held a media briefing yesterday at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce building, Westmoorings, to give some details into the deal.

“Gulf may have had some financial challenges in the past but remains a solid company. We see a bright future for us here,” Assuria’s chief executive, and now Gulf chairman, Stephen Smit, said. 

He said the acquisition was on par with Assuria’s company goals, in particular, “to have insurance interests in two countries outside Suriname”.

“We read a (credit rating agency) Moody’s report in 2011 listing Trinidad and Tobago’s economy as one of the most stable in Caricom, along with Suriname, and that is when we started to actively look at acquiring (business) here,” Smit said. 

Gulf managing director John Gonzales said one of the company’s biggest challenges, especially in other Caricom territories, was the shadow of failed insurance giant CLICO. 

The company also had to deal with a problematic balance sheet issue that needed to be resolved.

“The Central Bank was concerned because (our former parent company) Gallina had borrowed money to buy us from Charles Salvatore in 2006. They were defaulting on loan payments, so a new board was installed 18 months ago to broker a deal to sell the company,” Gonzales said.

He said there were 15 bids, whittled down to five, including two local entities, with Assuria coming out on top. 

Gulf, a general insurance company, currently has an estimated customer base of 50,000 and a premium base of $100 million. 

Assuria has a total asset value of US$212 million (2012), and recorded a profit before tax (2012) of US$10.6 million. 

The company also has 75 per cent interest in Assuria Life (Guyana) and Assuria General (Guyana), as well as 49 per cent holding in Suriname’s largest bank, DSB.