Willis: ‘Strong Progress’ in China

May 16, 2006

Global broker Willis Group Holdings, Ltd. announced that it has been “awarded significant new construction and marine cargo business with the Fujian Refining and Ethylene Project (FREP).”

Willis, which received written approval from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) to increase its ownership interests in Willis Pudong Insurance Brokers Co., Ltd. to 51 percent last year (See IJ Website Nov. 15, 2005), noted that it’s now “capitalizing on its competitive advantage in China.”

The project is described as a “$4 billion equity joint venture by Fujian Petrochemical Company Limited (a company jointly owned by Sinopec and Fujian provincial government), Aramco Overseas Company BV and ExxonMobil (China) Petroleum & Petrochemical Company Limited. FREP is the largest world-class foreign refining and petrochemicals project in China, to date.

“Based in the Fujian Province on China’s southeastern coast, the construction of this project will expand the annual capacity of the existing refinery from 4 million tons of oils and chemicals to 12 million tons. In addition to upgrading the refinery, the project includes the construction of a number of additional facilities that support the refinery process.”

Willis also announced that it has “established an office in the northeastern coastal municipality of Tianjin, China. The expansion into the region is notable, as Tianjin’s urban area is the third largest city in Mainland China, with a rapidly growing economy. Major industries include petrochemicals, textiles, car manufacturing, mechanical industries and metalworking.”

Willis is so far the only foreign broker to have received permission to hold a majority stake in a Chinese brokerage. As a result it’s beefing up its operations in the country. The bulletin notes that an “increasing number of New York companies are exploring and undertaking expanded business opportunities in China.” In an effort to meet their anticipated demands, Willis said it has “brought a professional of vast experience in this market to its New York offices. A 30 year veteran of the insurance industry, Howard Tsang, Executive Director, China, previously based in Shanghai.” He was responsible for establishing Willis’ Hong Kong operations in 1978. Prior to joining the New York operations, Tsang was Chief Operating Officer and Director of Willis Pudong Insurance Brokers Co Ltd.

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