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Reliance Mulling Bankruptcy Protection

NEW YORK — Reliance Group Holdings Inc (REL.N), the 183-year-old insurance company used by financier Saul Steinberg to mount daring takeover bids in the 1980s, on Monday said it may seek bankruptcy protection amid mounting losses so it can restructure its debt.

Reliance said it plans to operate its property and casualty insurance businesses as a run-off company, meaning it will pay off claims and continue to seek buyers for most of its insurance lines while not renewing other insurance lines.

On Monday, Reliance posted a second-quarter net loss of $504.5 million, or $4.40 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $156.9 million, or $1.38 per share, last year.

The move did not come as a surprise, one industry watcher said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Years of bad risk selection has led the company to this position, the source told Reuters.

In July, Leucadia National Corp (LUK.N) backed away from a proposed $293 million purchase of Reliance, a deal that would have alleviated some of the company's problems. Reliance must repay more than $700 million of debt over the next three years but it has no financing arranged.

Steinberg, who owns 42 percent of Reliance, stepped down as chief executive in February and has been looking to sell the company since last November. Shares of the company have shed more than 85 percent of their value in the past two years and closed in trading on the New York Stock Exchange at 3/16, below their 52-week high of 7-11/16 and highs above 19 two years

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