Report Ping An in Final Talks on Fortis Stake

Ping An Insurance, China’s second-largest life insurer, is in the final stage of negotiations to buy a major stake in the asset management unit of Belgian-Dutch financial services group Fortis, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Friday.

Fortis has hired Wall Street bank Merrill Lynch to advise it on the sale of a stake in Fortis Investment, its asset management unit, said the sources, who declined to be identified because no deal had been signed yet.

Ping An has also hired Goldman Sachs to help it to look for a number of acquisition targets in both the European and U.S. markets, including British insurer Prudential, although there has not been any specific progress yet, said the sources.

Earlier this week, the Belgian daily De Standard reported that Fortis was in talks with Ping An, which already holds a 4.2 percent stake in the Belgian-Dutch group, over a deal to boost its solvency.

Fortis said last week that it was about to strike a deal that would increase its solvency. It did not elaborate.

Early this month, shareholders in Ping An approved a plan for a domestic equity issue that could raise about $16 billion, based on its current share price. The plan still needs the approval of China’s securities regulator.

Last year, Ping An paid $2.7 billion for its 4.2 percent stake in Fortis. It has said it intends to make domestic and foreign acquisitions in line with its core business.

A Ping An spokesman declined to comment, while a representative for Fortis could not be immediately reached for comment.

Reporting by George Chen; Editing by Edmund Klamann