Foreign firms take stakes in China’s insurance market

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/20 21:12:22

Passengers pass US insurance firm AIA Group's office in Shanghai. File photo: VCG

Foreign insurance groups have been stepping up efforts to buy shares in domestic insurance companies over the past year, showing an increasing interest in China's financial market as it opens further, surveys and companies' equity adjustments showed.

More than 40 domestic insurers have seen major changes in their equity ownership over the past year, with foreign industry giants such as Allianz Insurance and ACE frequently stepping in and purchasing shares in these companies, according to a report from Securities Daily on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Zurich-based ACE announced plans to increase its shareholding in China's Huatai Insurance Group from 26.2 percent to 30.9 percent.

The moves, which come amid China's rapid and steady financial opening-up efforts, showed that the country's vast market is of great appeal to foreign financial organizations, experts said.

A total of 11 foreign-funded insurance companies were approved to increase capital in China this year, with the total increase reaching 4.66 billion yuan ($662.17 million), the report showed.

On November 15, Germany-based insurance group Allianz Insurance was approved to launch China's first fully foreign-owned insurance holding company.

"To give the first approval to a German company is of course related to increasing China-Germany ties, and it's also a result of the rising trade volume between the two," Hao Yansu, a professor at the School of Insurance of Central University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

In 2016, China overtook the US to become Germany's largest trading partner. In the first 10 months of the year, bilateral trade between China and Germany reached 1.05 trillion yuan, up by 4.8 percent year-on-year, almost one quarter of the total trade between China and Europe, which stood at 3.98 trillion yuan.

"Companies from countries that have sound and steady relationships with China will further enter the Chinese market and get benefits from China's opening-up dividends sooner. It will also be easier to gain a foothold here," Hao said.

An industry insider who is close to a major state-owned insurance company told the Global Times on Wednesday that domestic insurance companies have been undergoing a painful "reshuffle" over the past several years, as the industry has been under stricter scrutiny and tighter regulation. 

Thus, to introduce more mature foreign counterparts into their daily operations could be the best way for these insurers, most of which are small and medium-sized, to reform and grow, Hao noted, adding that the entry of more high-quality foreign insurance companies will also bring internationalized rules that will further regulate the domestic insurance industry.

"China is set to further open up its financial markets, ranging from the insurance industry to banking and securities," Han said.

In July this year, China announced 11 measures to further open up its financial markets. It said it would scrap foreign shareholding limits in securities, asset management and futures firms in 2020, a year ahead of schedule.

Of the 11 measures, four are related to the insurance sector, three cover the bond sector, and two are linked to wealth management. Two are connected with the securities business.

Posted in: ECONOMY

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