Report AIG’s Taiwan Unit Gets 3 Low Bids

By and Rachel Lee | August 31, 2009

Three bidders for AIG’s Nan Shan Life unit have offered less than $1.5 billion, far below the $2 billion the insurer had expected, sources close to the companies said on Friday, throwing the sale into doubt.

Friday was the deadline for the second-round bidders to submit their offers for the insurance unit.

The low-ball bids might scuttle the unit sale, based on comments made by Robert Benmosche, who on Aug. 10 was named American International Group’s new chief executive officer. In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Benmosche said he did not favor shedding assets at any price, a reversal of AIG’s fire sale strategy of the past year.

Taiwan’s Cathay Financial, the consortium of Primus Financial and China Strategic, and Carlyle Group and Taiwanese partner Fubon Financial have each submitted a bid of less than $1.5 billion, the sources said.

The sources did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

In addition, private equity firm Bain Capital has pulled out of its joint bid with Chinatrust Financial, Taiwan’s top credit card issuer, said a different source close to one of the companies.

Chinatrust Chief Investment Officer Daniel Wu declined to say whether the firm was bidding on its own or with a partner. However, late on Friday Chinatrust released a statement saying that it had submitted a bid for Nan Shan. It also said that it planned to raise up to T$47 billion ($1.4 billion) via a private placement based on Friday’s closing price of T$18.8, but did not give any further details.

The other bidders and Nan Shan could not be immediately reached for comment.

PRICE, UNION DISPUTES EYED

New York-based AIG is on the hook to repay more than $80 billion in U.S. government bailout loans extended last year, when the insurer nearly collapsed under the weight of mortgage-related derivative losses. As U.S. lawmakers increased the pressure, AIG laid out plans to sell many of its still-profitable business units around the world.

Yet the high price tag and growing pension disputes with Nan Shan’s union could once again derail AIG’s plan to sell the Taiwan unit after an attempted sale was scuppered earlier this year, some of the sources said.

Analysts said that with the bids below its expectations so far, there was a good chance that AIG, once the world’s biggest insurer before being battered by the global financial crisis, might fail to pin down a buyer for Nan Shan, its most expensive asset for sale in Asia.

They said that if the unit is not sold in this round, AIG would be forced to negotiate the price with the potential buyers or have to hold another bidding round.

“There might be a 50 percent chance that AIG will not agree to sell Nan Shan in this round,” said one of the sources who spoke about the bids.

An analyst from a European securities house who requested anonymity was less optimistic. “It is very likely AIG would not be able to find a suitable buyer this round,” the analyst said.

“Of course, AIG has every intention to talk to the three groups later, and ask them to raise their prices,” the analyst said. “But what would AIG offer in exchange for a higher price? That remains to be seen.”

There have been a number of foreign financial services company to exit Taiwan since the global crisis began.

Last October, Holland’s ING Groep sold its insurance unit to Fubon, while Britain’s Prudential offloaded most of its Taiwan assets to Taipei-based China Life earlier this year.

The sales were part of ING and Prudential’s efforts to shore up their finances at home during the global financial crisis.

(Additional reporting by George Chen and Michael Flaherty in Hong Kong; writing by Lee Chyen Yee; editing by Karen Foster)

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