Phoenix Group is in "advanced discussions in respect of a potential sale", it confirmed in a stock market statement this morning (18 May) at 7am.

Noting press speculation on the sale, the international life consolidator added a sale of the European businesses will only be considered if it maximises value for shareholders.

"Discussions are on-going and there can be no certainty that any transaction will be agreed."

It's response followed a story in Sky News and picked up across the media revealing that the London-listed life group was closing in on a deal to sell its European operations in a deal worth about £550m.

Sky News said it had learnt that Phoenix is finalising the details of a sale to European Life Group Holding (ELG), a privately owned vehicle backed by the US-based fund Sixth Street.

City sources told Sky News that a deal could be announced as early as this week.

It recently agreed with Standard Life Aberdeen to acquire the Standard Life name, leading to SLA's decision to rebrand itself as Abrdn.

Some of the assets that Phoenix now plans to sell to ELG were previously part of Standard Life.

Phoenix confirmed that it was exploring a disposal of its European businesses last November following interest from a number of third parties.

ELG is run by Deepak Rajan, a former executive at Athora, a life insurance consolidator established by the private equity giant Apollo Global Management.

It says it was formed to "positively disrupt" Europe's long-term guaranteed life insurance market.