Sun Life mulls ex­pan­sion into Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land

> Look­ing to boost pres­ence in Asia on grow­ing de­mand for in­sur­ance prod­ucts

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

HONG KONG: Canada’s Sun Life Fi­nan­cial Inc plans to ex­pand into Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land as it looks to boost its pres­ence in Asia where de­mand for in­sur­ance prod­ucts is grow­ing fast, a se­nior com­pany ex­ec­u­tive said.

The in­surer, which has made a flurry of takeovers in Asia in the past three years, will con­sider ac­qui­si­tions as well as build­ing its own pres­ence in the two mar­kets, Kevin Strain, pres­i­dent of Sun Life Fi­nan­cial Asia told Reuters.

Sun Life, which hopes to ben­e­fit from Asia’s bur­geon­ing mid­dle class in mar­kets such as China and India, has not yet set any time­line for the pro­posed ex­pan­sion, he said.

Sun Life cur­rently op­er­ates in seven Asian mar­kets in­clud­ing China, Hong Kong, India, the Philip­pines and Malaysia. A move into Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land would sig­nif­i­cantly bol­ster its pres­ence in South­east Asia.

“These are two mar­kets and po­ten­tially we will look at them,” Strain, who is re­spon­si­ble for Sun Life’s busi­ness in­ter­est in Asia and is a mem­ber of the com­pany’s ex­ec­u­tive team, said. “It’s a size­able op­por­tu­nity.”

South­east Asia is a bat­tle­ground for for­eign in­sur­ers who are at­tracted by the re­gion’s lower in­sur­ance pen­e­tra­tion lev­els and faster growth rates for life in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums than in their home mar­kets.

Sin­ga­pore, as a re­gional fi­nan­cial cen­tre, pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to sell prod­ucts to high net worth clients, while Thai­land, with a pop­u­la­tion of about 66 mil­lion, will give Sun Life ac­cess to a large pool of po­ten­tial buy­ers, Strain said.

Ma­jor in­sur­ance play­ers in Sin­ga­pore in­clude Great East­ern Hold­ings and Man­ulife, which signed a deal in May with DBS Group Hold­ings to sell prod­ucts through the lender’s Asian branch net­work.

Sun Life took full control of its In­done­sian busi­ness ear­lier this year, while sources in July said the Cana­dian firm and Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khaz­anah Na­sional were in talks to buy the in­sur­ance busi­ness of Hong Leong Fi­nan­cial Group Bhd.

A num­ber of in­sur­ers were also con­sid­er­ing bids in May to buy at least 49% of the US$3 bil­lion (RM12.4 bil­lion) in­sur­ance unit of Thai lender Siam Com­mer­cial Bank, sources said.

Strain de­clined to com­ment on in­di­vid­ual trans­ac­tions, but said Sun Life con­tin­ued to look for takeover op­por­tu­ni­ties in Asia, al­though he noted some tar­gets have be­come ex­pen­sive.

Sun Life’s Asia unit ac­counted for 15% of un­der­ly­ing net in­come in the quar­ter ended June this year, up from 11 per­cent a year ago, ac­cord­ing to a pre­sen­ta­tion on its web­site.

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