June 28, 2019 / 6:13 AM / 3 months ago

MetLife to sell Hong Kong insurance business to FWD

HONG KONG, June 28 (Reuters) - U.S. insurer MetLife Inc will sell its Hong Kong operations to FWD, the insurance company owned by tycoon Richard Li, the companies said in a joint statement on Friday, without disclosing any financial details of the deal.

The deal is the latest in a series of acquisitions FWD has made in the region, and comes after MetLife shelved an earlier attempt to sell its Hong Kong business worth over $500 million to a mainland Chinese buyer who failed to meet funding commitments, Reuters reported last year.

“The acquisition is another step towards fulfilling our ambition to build a leading pan-Asian life insurance platform,” FWD Group Chief Executive Officer Huynh Thanh Phong said.

The acquisition highlights the attractiveness of Hong Kong’s insurance businesses, which are receiving a boost from growing wealth in the city and Chinese visitors snapping up foreign currency-denominated products.

Hong Kong’s life insurance market is well-developed, with a life and health insurance premium to GDP ratio of 17.94% in 2017, Asia’s second-highest after Taiwan, according to data from insurer Swiss Re.

Hong Kong-based FWD has been aggressively expanding its Asian footprint in the last couple of years, mainly through acquisitions as it seeks to grab a bigger share of the market from large global as well as local insurers.

In March, Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank Pcl (SCB) said it had entered into exclusive talks to sell its life insurance business to FWD.

In August last year, it got regulatory approval to buy HSBC Holdings’ 49% stake in the London-headquartered lender’s Malaysian life insurance joint venture, HSBC Amanah Takaful Malaysia Bhd.

FWD’s Asia presence includes Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The company is also awaiting regulatory approval in China to launch a life insurance joint venture.

The company plans to rename and rebrand the MetLife Hong Kong business, the statement said, adding that all existing MetLife Hong Kong policies will continue to be honoured by FWD following the change in ownership. (Reporting by Alun John; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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