[Bloomberg] — Assurant Inc. is exploring the sale of its employee-benefits and health-insurance businesses as part of a strategy to narrow its focus and generate higher returns.

Divestitures would leave the insurer with units that sell coverage for housing and personal items, such as mobile phones and jewelry, according to a statement Tuesday from the New York-based company. Assurant said it plans exit the health insurance market in 2016, even if it fails to sell the business.

“The health and employee benefits business segments possess differentiated capabilities in their respective markets, but we do not believe they can meet our return targets at the pace we require,” Assurant Chief Executive Officer Alan B. Colberg said in the statement. “We believe they would be strong assets for new owners that are focused more exclusively on health care and employee benefits.”

Proceeds from a divestiture could be used to expand its remaining businesses or be returned to shareholders, according to the statement. The company has hired Barclays Plc to explore a possible sale.

Assurant also said that its net operating income in the first quarter was probably $40 million to $50 million. Full results will be released May 5.

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