Apax, Morgan Stanley View Hub Sale

Target: Hub International

Price: $2 billion

Sponsors: Apax Partners, Morgan Stanley Principal Investments

Buyout firm Apax Partners and Morgan Stanley’s private equity arm are exploring a sale of Chicago-based insurance brokerage Hub International that could be valued at around $2 billion, two people familiar with the matter told sister news service Reuters.

The potential sale of Hub would come six years after Apax and Morgan Stanley Principal Investments took the company private for $1.8 billion, including $145 million of debt.

Representatives for Hub, Apax and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

The private equity owners have yet to launch a sale process for Hub and the considerations are at an early stage, one of the people said, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

Hub, which provides property and casualty, reinsurance, life and health, as well as employee benefits, has grown through 300 acquisitions of insurance brokerages since its inception in 1998, according to the company’s Web site. The firm was originally formed with the merger of 11 privately held Canadian insurance brokerages in 1998, and today has 250 satellite offices throughout the United States.

Insurance brokers have become attractive takeover targets recently, because they have seen strong revenue growth as a result of raising prices on their offerings to offset big catastrophe losses in 2011. In November, Canadian buyout firm Onex Corp. announced it was buying U.S.-based insurance brokerage USI Holdings from Goldman Sachs Group for $2.3 billion.

Jessica Toonkel and Soyoung Kim are correspondents for Reuters in New York.