After four weeks of thinking, Sumitomo Marine & Fire Insurance Co. announced Friday it will not join a plan by its three rivals to consolidate their companies.

The nation’s third-largest nonlife insurer said it decided against joining the proposed alliance between Mitsui Marine & Fire Insurance Co., Koa Fire & Marine Insurance Co. and Nippon Fire & Marine Insurance Co. because the four could not agree on the schedule of integration or what the share-distribution ratio for shareholders would be once the proposed holding company is set up.

“We considered it imperative that the four firms agree on such points first,” Sumitomo Marine President Hiroyuki Uemura said in a hastily arranged news conference Friday. “We have concluded that an early agreement on these points is unlikely.”

Uemura explained that his company wanted its stock prices — currently the highest among the four — reflected in the redistribution of stocks if it joined the holding company. The three others, however, had agreed to divide the shares equally among participating firms.

As for the consolidation, the three companies plan to integrate in three stages by 2005. But Sumitomo Marine wanted it carried out earlier, according to Uemura.

Uemura denied speculation that his firm’s entry into the talks was spurred by a merger announcement by Sakura Bank and Sumitomo Bank. The four insurers had begun talking about tieup possibilities long before the two city banks announced the merger plan in mid-October, he said.

On Sumitomo Marine’s relationship with Sumitomo Bank, Uemura said he would like to stay close to the bank due to ongoing cooperation along the “keiretsu” line in such areas as the 401(k) pension business and online brokering.

Although the firm will go it alone for now, it will keep exploring possible alliances with companies both in and outside the industry, Uemura said.

Asked about the lesson learned from the failed talks, he said he realized the difficulty of merging four big companies still not experienced in the industry.

“They all have long histories and their own cultures,” Uemura said. “It’s hard for two companies to come together, let alone four.”

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