China Life Interested in Acquring AIG Asia Assets

By Eadie Chen and Samuel Shen | November 24, 2008

China Life Insurance Co, the world’s biggest life insurer by market value, is interested in buying Asian assets of American International Group, a senior China Life manager briefed on the situation said on Monday.

“We want to buy parts of AIG’s business, especially those in areas of Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea,” the manager at the Beijing-based company told Reuters.

Chinese newspapers including the Southern Daily on Monday quoted China Life President Wan Feng as telling a media briefing the day before that the quality of AIG’s insurance business in Asia was good but needed further observation, as AIG’s financial condition might worsen.

AIG, once the world’s biggest insurer, is putting its non-essential businesses up for sale after receiving a $152 billion bailout from the U.S. government to avoid bankruptcy as it was hit by the subprime debt crisis.

Japan’s Nikkei business daily reported on Friday that a consortium led by China’s sovereign wealth fund, which includes Chinese insurers, is in talks to buy a 49 percent stake in AIG unit Alico in a deal that could be worth up to $10.6 billion.

AIG’s preferential talks with the China Investment Corp-led consortium carry a year-end deadline, the newspaper said.

China Life spokesman Li Ke and Shanghai-based AIG spokeswoman Annie Hou declined to comment.

ATTRACTIVE ASSETS
“AIG’s insurance assets in Asia, especially in China, are quite attractive to Chinese insurers that are eager to increase market share and expand overseas,” said Peng Yulong, analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co.

But he added: “Chinese insurers are not the principal movers in this case, as there’s more than just one company wanting to buy the assets, and price is also an issue.”

AIG’s Alico, or American Life Insurance Co, has operations in more than 55 countries and has a major presence in Japan. Nikkei said AIG was considering a sale of Alico on the condition it could keep more than 50 percent of the voting rights in the company.

Another unit of AIG, American International Assurance, or AIA, is one of the biggest life insurers in Southeast Asia, with operations in China, Australia, India, Japan, Singapore and Korea. AIA China, wholly owned by AIG, is the country’s oldest and biggest foreign life insurer.

About 30 companies, including Chinese firms, are interested in buying AIA’s Asia assets, AIA China Vice Chairman Edmund Tse was quoted as saying last week in the 21st Century Business Herald, a Chinese financial newspaper.

(Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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