The UK's biggest insurance provider Aviva has confirmed that it has entered into acquisition talks with rival AmerUS, although it emphasises that discussions are at an early stage.
Aviva, which operates under its Norwich Union brand in the UK, had previously denied takeover links with the US firm earlier in the year, but has now been forced to clarify its present intentions following media speculation.
"A transaction, if agreed, is expected to be funded from a combination of Aviva's internal resources, external debt and a market placing of Aviva shares," a company statement said.
"If a transaction is agreed, any equity placing will be accompanied by an update on Aviva's current trading."
The firm explained that the takeover talks were "consistent" with its ongoing strategy of "pursuing value creating acquisition opportunities in key growth segments of the major global long term savings markets".
AmerUs has a stock market value of about $2.3 billion (£1.25 billion), while Aviva's shares fell slightly to 730.5p this morning after closing at 752.5p last night.
Aviva is the world's sixth largest insurance group, with its core business areas being long-term savings, fund management and general insurance. Despite denying interest in AmerUs earlier in the year, it has never hidden its desire to expand into the US market.