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Aston Lark keeps up breakneck buying spree in Ireland with Sparrow deal

The transaction is the 11th takeover Aston Lark Ireland has made in a little over a year


Robert Kennedy, Aston Lark Ireland CEO

Robert Kennedy, Aston Lark Ireland CEO

Robert Kennedy, Aston Lark Ireland CEO

Fast-growing insurance broker Aston Lark Ireland has made yet another acquisition in the rapidly consolidating Irish market with the purchase of Sparrow Insurances.

The transaction is the 11th takeover Aston Lark Ireland has made in a little over a year as private equity firms and large brokers race to tie up deals with small, local players.

The deal further expands Aston Lark’s franchise in Leinster and Munster, where Sparrow operated out of offices in Portlaoise, Blanchardstown, Nenagh and Thurles.

“We continue to build momentum in Ireland, and this acquisition is another boost to our ambition of becoming Ireland’s leading independent insurance broker,” said Aston Lark Ireland chief executive Robert Kennedy.

The latest acquisition comes as international group Howden nears the completion of its agreement to buy Aston Lark from backer Goldman Sachs Asset Management in a deal that will create the largest independent broker in the UK.

Howden will now control over £6bn of gross written premium for more than 1.7 million policyholders who are served by over 5,000 employees from 160 locations in the UK and Ireland.

Ireland has been part of Aston Lark’s ambitious growth plans since its foundation in 2018 and the company quickly snapped up two Irish firms, Robertson Low and Wright Insurance Group, a year later.

In 2021 Aston Lark merged those two to form Aston Lark Ireland and set up about hoovering up smaller firms in a race to achieve scale and operational leverage.

After piecing together nearly a dozen firms in a 14 month buying sprees, Aston Lark now has a national headcount approaching 250 employees.

The company specialises in commercial insurance but also sells home and motor cover.

Deep-pocketed buyers have been on the hunt for deals in Ireland’s highly fragmented insurance broker market, which is facing increasing cost pressure from regulation, prompting many owner-operators and partnerships to sell up.

Last week acquisitive Irish group Arachas bought out another smaller rival with the purchase of Glennon Insurance.

Global insurance broker Gallagher entered the market last month with the purchase of Innovu, a private-equity backed brand that itself had been buying local brokers for the last four years, mainly in the south-east of the country.

Quote Devil, the well-know low-cost broker, was sold to the private equity group behind Chill Insurance in April for €30m, according to figures disclosed in a recent court case involving its owners.

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Other big deals in the last year include sales of Chill Insurance and Gallivan Murphy, both for €100m in transactions that involved big pay-outs for their owners.

Arachas has been pursuing an aggressive buying strategy similar to Aston Lark’s since forming 2017. The firm is owned by Ardonagh, still the UK’s largest independent broker, which is rolling out a piecemeal consolidation approach in all its European markets.

Ardonagh banked more than $1bn in new funding from owners Madison Dearborn and HPSs last December. The UK-based group bought Arachas for €250m in 2020.

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