NORWAY - A majority of shareholders of Norwegian life insurer Storebrand last night backed proposals for the NOK13.6bn (€1.7bn) takeover bid of Swedish pension group SPP.

Despite opposition from the insurer Gjensidige, its second-largest shareholder with a stake of just over 10%, Storebrand got its two-thirds majority at the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in Oslo last night.

Almost 83% of Storebrand's shareholders backed the offer for SPP, the occupational pension branch of the Swedish Handelsbanken.

Gjensidige had argued the price for SPP was too high in relation to its shareholder value.

Storebrand entered into an agreement with Handelsbanken last month for the purchase of the subsidiary, seen by many as a major push into the Swedish occupational pension market.

A spokesman for the Norwegian life insurer told IPE last night the company expects the deal to be closed in December.

Paul Bradley, secondary credit analyst at Standard & Poor's (S&P), today said the outlook for the company has remained unchanged.

S&P reduced it outlook for Storebrand Liv, the pension and insurance arm, to negative from stable last month, following the announcement of its proposed takeover.

The agency suggested at the time there is "the risk that Storebrand will not be able to successfully integrate and leverage the newly-acquired Swedish operations".

S&P added "the finite management resource of Storebrand will be stretched by this acquisition" and there is a refinancing risk associated with the transaction.

But it now thinks if those points are addressed successfully, the takeover of SPP will be positive for Storebrand Liv's operating performance and competitive position.

Earlier this year, SPP, among some other big Swedish companies, failed to pick up any mandates when tenders were awarded for the new scheme for white-collar workers, ITP.

Market sources suggest to IPE the move was a setback for those providers that had not been chosen, though stressing this should not be over-dramatised, as there will be a three and five-year review of providers.

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