The Travelers Cos. exercised an option to increase its ownership stake in a Brazil company that it invested in two years ago from 43.4 percent to 49.5 percent.
Travelers said in November 2010 it planned to spend $370 million for a 43 percent stake in J. Malucelli Participações em Seguros e Resseguros S.A., the market leader in surety insurance in Brazil.
UnitedHealth Group’s plans to spend $4.9 billion on Brazil’s biggest health-care company is the insurer’s priciest acquisition in years, giving it a huge stake in Latin America as U.S. companies compete for a rapidly growing middle-class market around the globe.
Health insurers have sought a portion of the health-care market in growing nations — Brazil being one of the hottest, as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics — to buffer a squeeze on profits by Obamacare. Developing countries with people entering the middle class for the first time is a source of new, additional customers while the U.S. market is developed and saturated with competition.