Industrial firms see insurance premiums as cheap capital flows
Chinese listed companies are chasing insurance licenses, hoping to gain low-cost capital amid the economic slowdown.
At least 51 companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen markets have filed such applications to issue insurance as of Sept 27, according to Chinese media estimates based on their public filings to the stock exchanges.
Software and telecommunications firms and real estate companies are among the most active players venturing into the insurance sector, according to public information.
The most recent case is the joint investment of 1.05 billion yuan ($157 million) to set up an insurance firm by online travel service provider Tempus Global Business Service Co Ltd, Chinese fashion brand Septwolves Co Ltd, and ASD Corporation, a cookware and kitchen electric appliance producer. The three Shenzhen-listed companies will jointly own 35 percent share of the insurance firm.
Industry experts said the trend of industrial capital entering the insurance sector highlighted the companies’ desire to gain lower-cost capital through the insurance business, which could help them weather the economic slowdown.
“Gaining large and stable cash flows through insurance premium revenue is very attractive for industrial companies. Bysettingupan insurance firm, they could also gain access to business opportunities in the financial industry,” said Wang Guojun, an insurance professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
The trend also underscored the policymakers’ intention to expand China’s insurance market by allowing more players to enter the industry, Wang said, adding that the regulator may accelerate the approval process for setting up insurance firms in the coming years.
The Chinese insurance regulator has approved 15 applications for insurance license so far this year, already surpassing the total number of 11 approvals last year.
Acquiring an insurance license is also a key step for industrial companies to build a financial platform to support their business, said analysts at Essence Securities Co in a research note.
But, some experts warned that operating an insurance firm requires sophisticated management and risk controls skills and the ability to secure sustainable capital inflows, so companies lacking that capability could create risks for themselves and their clients.