Arachas to buy Stuart Insurances as broker deals accelerate

Purchase is latest move in major ongoing consolidation of the brokerage sector

Arachas, the largest Irish insurance broker, has agreed to acquire Dublin-based Stuart Insurances for an undisclosed sum, as consolidation in the broker market continues at pace.

Stuart Insurances, based in Blackrock in south Co Dublin and with offices in Kilkenny and Wexford, is involved in both business and commercial coverage and is understood to write about €20 million of gross written premiums a year. It was established in 1978, and the company’s workforce of more than 30 people, led by managing director Ian Stuart, will join Arachas’s 500-strong workforce throughout the State.

Arachas, one of the most active dealmakers in the industry in the Republic, was itself acquired in 2020 by Ardonagh, a UK brokerage group that is backed by US private equity firms Madison Dearborn and HPS Partners, for €250 million. Still, it is the first deal done by Arachas since last October, when it closed the purchase of Waterford-based Hooper Dolan, bringing the group’s annual gross written premiums to about €450 million.

The deal comes less than a week after global insurance giant Arthur J Gallagher announced its arrival in the Irish market with the acquisition of MML Capital Partners-backed insurance group Innovu.

Elsewhere, PIB Group, a UK intermediary that entered the Irish market in 2017 and went on to buy Campion Insurance last year, last week bought Limerick-based Sullivan Insurances.

The wider Irish market has seen a flurry of broker deals in the past six years as it followed waves of consolidation in the UK and North America. The ultimate backers of most of the purchasing vehicles are private equity firms, attracted to a sector that is fee-based and delivers steady revenues through the economic cycle. This allows buyers to service the debt needed to finance further deals.

A Central Bank report published last week on employers’ and public liability and commercial property insurance showed that broker commissions across these three lines of coverage — usually sold as a package — equated to 16 per cent of insurance underwriters’ gross earned premiums in 2019 and 2020.

“Over the last number of years, we have been pursued by a number of interested parties but felt that the cultural fit and timing was not right,” said Mr Stuart. “Once we started talking to Arachas, we quickly understood the opportunities there would be for our team of over 30 professionals and the advantages that being part of the Arachas group would have for our long-standing and loyal customers.”

Arachas chief executive Conor Brennan said that the deal “is about growth for both sides and will present great development opportunities for Stuart Insurances employees as they become part of the Arachas family and for their customers, as they benefit from a greater range of quality insurance products”.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times