French insurers in talks to jointly invest 1 bln euros to help small businesses during coronavirus

French insurers in talks to invest 1 bln euros to help small businesses

PARIS – French insurers are in discussions to invest 1 billion euros ($1.09 billion) into funds dedicated to help small and mid-sized firms and health companies recover from the impact of the coronavirus epidemic, the chief executive of CNP Assurances told Reuters on Friday.

Insurers have been under pressure from the French government to come up with a plan to support the economy, as most companies were left without insurance coverage for disruptions to business caused by the lockdown.

Life insurer CNP Assurances and French public-sector lender Caisse des Depots are leading the efforts to get the scheme up and running.

“During the discussions with la Caisse des Depots on the one side and with the insurers on the other, we had an idea to set up a joint investment programme,” Antoine Lissowski, chief executive of life insurer CNP Assurances, told Reuters in a phone interview.

Caisse des Depots will coordinate the programme and as an investor will bring in at least 100 million euros, Olivier Mareuse, head of asset management at Caisse des Depots, told Reuters in a separate interview.

The programme will consist of re-opening NOVO, NOVI, NOVA funds, launched a few years ago by Caisse des Depots and insurers, since they were devoted to SMEs and mid-caps and these companies would need help during the economic recovery.

And another part of the programme would involve investments in the health sector.

“We have seen during this crisis that private investment in health needs to be replenished,” Lissowski said.

French insurers are considering more measures to support the economy, such as making discounts on some contracts or donating more money to the state solidarity fund to help small businesses.

French insurance lobby FFA said last month that insurers would contribute up to 200 million euros to a solidarity fund set up by the government to help companies deal with a significant drop in activity due to the coronavirus crisis.

Lissowski said that French insurers were considering providing another 200 million euros to the fund.

“More contributions are needed for the solidarity fund, it is necessary to recover the money from the claims that did not take place,” French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio on Friday.


($1 = 0.9205 euros)

(Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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