Aviva plans to explore a partial sale next year of Delta Lloyd, its Dutch subsidiary, which could raise about £855m.

Andrew Moss, chief executive of the UK’s biggest insurer, would not put a value on the Dutch business on Thursday, but said the stake would have to be at least 25-30 per cent to create a meaningful free float.

The proposed initial public offering would boost Aviva’s financial flexibility, Mr Moss said. It comes on top of the recent sale of Aviva’s Australian business for £452m and the 31 per cent cut in its interim dividend unveiled with its results on Thursday.

“This is a very important move for Aviva. We’ve owned the business for 36 years and have 92 per cent of the shares. But we only have two votes out of eight on the board …and there have been big differences in governance that have even led to litigation in the past.”

Niek Hoek, executive board chairman of Delta Lloyd, said an independent listing would support the group’s growth strategy and enhance its brand.

“Delta Lloyd is a solid company with a strong financial position and an IPO would give us room to consider options in the consolidation we foresee in the Netherlands and Belgium,” Mr Hoek said.

Delta Lloyd reported a book value at its own half-year results on Thursday of €4.1bn (£3.5bn) on a market-consistent embedded-value basis and total shareholders’ equity of €3.96bn. Allowing for a slight discount to book value and for debt outstanding, a 30 per cent stake could be worth almost €1bn.

Analysts said the sale could raise anywhere between €800m and €1.2bn depending on how much was sold and market sentiment at the time.

Mr Moss said Delta Lloyd was the only Dutch insurer not have raised equity either from the stock market or the government in the past 18 months. As an independent it would be in a strong position to lead consolidation in the market.

A sale would give Aviva additional capital either to pursue other growth opportunities or to restructure its balance sheet.

Mr Moss said Aviva had not pursued a number of acquisition opportunities. After the Dutch sale it could be interested in deals in Europe, the UK or the US, where it had been growing rapidly and where it might consider listing itself in the future.

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