Ping An Buys 4.18% Stake in Fortis

Fortis, the Belgian/Dutch banking and insurance group, and Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, Ltd. jointly announced that Ping An Life Insurance Company of China, Ltd.,a subsidiary of Ping An Group, had acquired approximately a 4.18 percent stake in Fortis.

“The shares have been purchased through the secondary market, and Ping An Life becomes the single largest shareholder of Fortis,” said the bulletin. Fortis described the sale as being “in line with its strategy to grow outside of the Benelux, and with a view to deepening its understanding of the increasingly important Asian markets.”

The Fortis Board of Directors has invited Louis Cheung Chi Yan, Executive Director & Group President of Ping An, to become member of the Board, “upon approval by the General Meetings of Shareholders in April 2008, which is subject to customary regulatory nonobjection process in Belgium.”

The two parties plan to explore “co-operations in some of their activities,” said the bulletin. “Senior management of both companies expect significant long term advantages to accrue to both parties.”

Ping An described the “investment in Fortis as part of its “ordinary course of business using its insurance fund allows Ping An to further optimize its global asset allocation and enhance the prospects of achieving a higher investment return.”

Fortis said the “investment by Ping An provides it with a stable shareholder and allows it to gain enhanced access to high-growth markets, in particular China.”

Peter Ma Mingzhe, Ping An’s Chairman and CEO commented: “The investment is a major milestone for China’s insurance industry. Our decision to invest in Fortis reflects our strong belief in and support for their strategy, and will improve Ping An’s competitiveness and allow it to achieve a faster rate of sustainable growth, and encourage innovation in the use of insurance funds. The deal will realize valuable benefits because of Fortis’ and Ping An’s shared business model of an integrated banking and insurance platform. Hence, Ping An will benefit from Fortis’ expertise in cross selling, risk management and innovation in product design.”

Fortis Chairman Maurice Lippens added: “The agreement of Ping An to become a key shareholder represents a strong vote of confidence from a highly respected institution. It will raise Fortis’ profile in China, which, combined with an expected increased access to the Chinese market, will lift our overall growth potential. It is a demonstration of the global nature of our business and our commitment to China.”

Source: Fortis –