Northern Ireland

Liberty Mutual buys Newtownards-based Hughes Insurance

Hughes Insurance, Northern Ireland's largest independent insurance broker, has been bought by US firm Liberty Mutual.

Liberty Mutual already owns the former Quinn Direct insurance business baseed mainly in the Republic of Ireland.

Newtownards-based Hughes was established by Leslie Hughes in 1977 and employs over 300 people.

All Hughes policies remain valid and at renewal customers will be offered terms for cover underwritten by Liberty.

Hughes Insurance will operate as a stand-alone business under its existing brand.

Employment levels at its call centre in Newtownards and at its 11 other branches around Northern Ireland are unaffected by the announcement.

Employment at Liberty's operations in Enniskillen, Dublin and Cavan are also unaffected.

'Exciting opportunities'

The purchase price for the business, which had turnover of about £60m last year, has not been revealed.

CEO of Liberty Insurance, Patrick O'Brien, said: "I believe Liberty's acquisition of Hughes and our appointment as lead underwriter will enable us to build a leading presence in the Northern Ireland market.

"Liberty Mutual has a long history in Northern Ireland, having first invested in Northern Ireland in 1997 with the establishment of Liberty Information Technology, which now employs over 400 IT professionals."

CEO of Hughes Insurance, Gareth Brady, said: "This is a great development for both our customers and our employees, enabling us to grow our business further with the backing of one of the world's leading insurers while maintaining our Northern Ireland identity.

"It also opens up a range of exciting opportunities for our talented workforce across Northern Ireland."

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