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By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi
ZURICH (Reuters) - Zurich Insurance has agreed to sell its Russian business to members of the local team, it said on Friday, as the Swiss insurer became the latest Western firm to exit Russia.
It joins a list of companies that have quit the market in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with some handing these businesses over to local partners. Those quitting range from McDonald's and Dutch brewer AB Inbev to carmaker Renault and French lender Societe General.
Finding a suitable exit plan has been a challenge, with some businesses saying they are maintaining their Russian businesses to keep assets out of the hands of the state.
Zurich Insurance said the sale, which remains subject to regulatory approval, would hand its rebranded Russian operations -- which accounts for a tiny fraction of its overall business -- to 11 members of the unit's team.
"Under its new owners, the business will operate independently under a different brand, while Zurich will no longer conduct business operations in Russia," it said.
"The transaction will allow the new company to retain a professional team with accumulated insurance expertise and to continue serving the Russian market," Zurich Insurance said.
The Swiss insurance company, which conducts property and casualty insurance in Russia primarily for international customers, said it held about 0.3% of Russia's non-life insurance market.
Zurich, which has removed its Z logo from social media after the letter became a symbol of support in Russia for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, said in March it no longer took on new domestic customers in Russia and would not renew existing local business.
It said when releasing first-quarter data this month that its direct exposure to Russia and Ukraine through its property and casualty operations and investment portfolio was expected to be "immaterial".
It had gross written premiums of roughly $34 million in Russia in 2021, it said on Friday, accounting for less than 0.1% of the $40.1 billion in gross written premiums its property and casualty business recorded for the year.
The vast majority of these were from international customers, it said, with only $3 million related to domestic Russian customers.
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; additional reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Edmund Blair)