* Tucker to retire from AIA in Sept., joining HSBC as
* The 59-year old Brit to be replaced by regional CEO Ng
* Tucker's retirement comes amid growing challenges for AIA
* Analysts say group still well-positioned, transition
By Michelle Price and Sumeet Chatterjee
HONG KONG, March 13 Insurer AIA Group Ltd
shares fell 2.8 percent on Monday morning in Hong Kong
as investors digested the news that chief executive Mark Tucker
will be retiring in September after what was regarded as a
stellar seven-year stint at the helm.
A one-time professional footballer who has held several
leadership jobs including running Britain's Prudential,
Tucker is leaving the world's third-largest life insurer as it
faces new headwinds amid a regulatory crackdown in China and
sluggish growth in some other key regional markets.
He will be succeeded on Sept. 1 by Ng Keng Hooi, who has
served as AIA regional chief executive for the past six and a
half years. Ng joined AIA in 2010, before which he was group
CEO of Singapore-based Great Eastern Holdings and served a
20-year stint at Prudential.
Tucker, 59, will be a tough act to follow. Since taking the
company public shortly after his appointment in 2010, the
British-born executive has presided over a doubling in AIA
share's price - driven for the most part by a pivot in focus
Over the past seven years, the company has expanded rapidly
into key growth markets including India and China, leading to a
quadrupling in the value of new business at AIA to $2.8 billion
between 2010 and November 2016, according to the company.
"Under his leadership, AIA has achieved impressive growth
via steady topline expansion, ongoing product mix improvement,
expansion in distribution channels, accretive acquisitions, as
well as expansion into new markets," analysts at Citi wrote on
Monday, noting the company was still well-positioned with an
experienced senior management team.
The group put in another strong performance in 2016 buoyed
by steady demand for policies in Hong Kong, with mainland
Chinese seeking overseas investment opportunities to cushion the
impact of a weakening yuan. China and Hong Kong together
accounted for about half of new business growth globally at AIA.
But last year's surge in mainland Chinese seeking policies
in Hong Kong has led Beijing to crack down on such purchases,
and worries about further regulatory tightening are weighing on
investor sentiment, according to analysts and industry insiders.
AIA shares dropped 15 percent in the December quarter, and
were down 6 percent for 2016 - their first annual decline since
the insurer's market IPO. Citi said on Monday the group's
historical growth had set a high base and that much of the
easiest expansion had already been realised under Tucker's
"We also continue to believe lingering capital controls in
China may further dampen growth from here," it said.
The group's other major markets include Thailand, Singapore,
and Malaysia - the Southeast Asian countries that have become a
battleground for foreign insurers attracted by the region's
lower insurance penetration levels. Industry insiders said these
markets had also seen a tough start to the year.
“It has been a difficult start to the year for the insurance
industry. The very profitable mainland (Chinese) business is
showing signs of slowing down because of the crackdown on
capital outflow channels," said a senior executive at a rival
group in Hong Kong.
"Secondly, some other regional markets like Thailand, which
have been strong growth areas, have showed a decline recently.
So the Asian insurance industry is braced for a few tough
Analysts at Morgan Stanley said Ng's strong industry
experience should make for a "manageable" transition.
(Reporting by Michelle Price and Sumeet Chatterjee; additional
reporting by Saikat Chatterjee in Hong Kong; Editing by Stephen