SPAIN – Grupo Santander says the sale of its insurance portfolio to life insurer VidaCaixa leaves it free to focus on pensions.

Barcelona-based VidaCaixa, a unit of the CaiFor insurance group co-owned by la Caixa and Fortis, said in a statement that it has signed an agreement to buy Santander Central Hispano Seguros Previsión for 160 million euros. The company is the group and company insurance portfolio of Santander Central Hispano, Spain’s largest bank.

“Following the transaction, the entity will focus on the management and development of group and company pension plans and funds, a segment in which it expects to achieve a leading position,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

Santander Central Hispano Seguros Previsión's group and company insurance portfolio has 3.1 billion euros in managed funds. It has more than 320 corporate clients and 100,000 policyholders.

The statement said the deal follows Santander’s decision in 2000 to rejig its insurance activities. The bank would “broaden its offering of investments and services management” and make investments in technology. It said it would also “beef up the human resource teams dedicated to these activities”.

“This acquisition consolidates VidaCaixa's leading position in the employee benefits market,” the statement said. The acquisition takes its total portfolio to 7.9 billion euros.