* Meiji Yasuda to keep bulk of foreign bonds dollar denominated
* Any increase to their euro-denominated bond holdings to be small (Adds context, details)
By Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoshiyuki Osada
TOKYO, April 25 (Reuters) - Japan’s Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance plans to increase its foreign bond holdings this year, a senior company official said on Tuesday.
The country’s third-largest private life insurer, which has assets of around 37 trillion yen ($335.63 billion), also aims to trim its holdings of yen bonds during the financial year ending March 2018.
Japanese investors have stepped up purchases of foreign bonds in recent years as an alternative to low-yielding domestic bonds.
In the last financial year, Japanese insurers bought a record 7.76 trillion yen ($70.37 billion) of foreign bonds. (For a graphic of the trend, see tmsnrt.rs/2oZOJ7E)
Meiji Yasuda will continue to keep the bulk of its foreign bond investment in dollar-denominated instruments this year.
“About 85 percent of both our unhedged and hedged foreign bond holdings are dollar denominated,” said Toshihiko Yamashita, chief executive of Meiji Yasuda Life’s investment division.
“Any increases to our euro-denominated foreign bond holdings will be small this financial year, given the uncertainties surrounding Europe.”
The insurer increased its foreign bond holdings in the previous year by 1.08 trillion yen, of which 180 billion yen were unhedged and the remaining 900 billion yen hedged.
Foreign bond purchases last year centred on credit instruments such as U.S. residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), Yamashita said.
Foreign bonds account for about 17 percent of Meiji Yasuda’s assets.
“We will increase our unhedged foreign bond holdings this year, while keeping an eye on interest rate levels, if the yen appreciates,” Yamashita said.
While it plans to trim its yen bond holdings this year, Meiji Yasuda will keep them as its mainstay investments. Yen bonds make up about 47 percent of its assets.
However, the insurer is looking to lock in yields from yen-denominated corporate bonds.
Meiji Yasuda expects the dollar to range between 101 and 121 yen this financial year, and the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield to move between 2.00 and 3.00 percent. ($1 = 110.2800 yen) (Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Kim Coghill)