A pair of insurance companies is making a bid to acquire West Des Moines-based American Equity Investment Life Holding Co., the Wall Street Journal reported. The proposed deal is a “bet that the small Iowa insurer’s retirement-income products will continue to be popular with conservative savers,” according to the Journal report. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Athene Holding Ltd., parent company of Athene USA in West Des Moines, offered American Equity $36 a share in cash on Sept. 8, according to a letter sent to American Equity CEO Anant Bhalla, the Journal reported. American Equity issued a press release this morning confirming the unsolicited offer. At that price, the bid would amount to a value of more than $3 billion. American Equity has a current market value of about $2 billion, and its shares closed Wednesday at $21.99. According to a copy of that letter filed by American Equity with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the offer calls for Athene to acquire the holding company and assume all of American Equity’s debt and preferred obligations, while MassMutual would acquire and retain the insurance subsidiaries and all of the employees, distribution, brands and infrastructure of the company. MassMutual would reinsure 80% of the existing balance sheets of the insurance subsidiaries to Athene and retain the remaining 20%. “Under MassMutual’s ownership, it is envisioned that the current American Equity management team will continue to run the business and further strengthen its leadership position in the domestic Fixed Indexed Annuity marketplace,” MassMutual’s and Athene’s leaders said in the letter. American Equity said in its release that its board is “carefully reviewing the unsolicited proposal in consultation with financial and legal advisors to determine the course of action it believes is in the best interests of the Company and its shareholders and other stakeholders.”