Zurich Acquires Stake in New China Life

Zurich Financial Services announced that it has acquired a 10 percent stake in China’s fourth largest life insurance company, New China Life, for $ 39 million.

Zurich is part of a group of investors which includes the World Bank International Finance Corp., Japan’s Meiji Life, which also acquired a 10 percent stake, and the Netherlands Development Finance Co.

This is only the second time that foreign insurers have been permitted to acquire a significant interest in a Chinese life company. Swiss insurer Winterthur purchased an equity stake in Tai Kang Life last November.

In both cases the investors have pledged to provide technical assistance and training to their Chinese affiliates. New China Life, founded in 1996, is growing rapidly, and currently has 500 employees, and over 2500 agents. It wrote $120 million in gross premiums in 1999.

Malcolm Jones, a Zurich Financial board member who’s responsible for the Asia/Pacific region, was quoted by both the Financial Times and the Associated Press as stating, ” We expect that the economic and social reforms such as the deregulation of medical care and pension business will increase the potential of the Chinese life insurance market tremendously.”