New partner may bolster JV's growth

Allianz AG life insurance JV's new Chinese partner provides solid capital backup for the company's "more aggressive" growth in China, CEO Christian Molt said in a press briefing yesterday.

CITIC Trust and Investment, which managed over 8 billion yuan (US$986.4 million) at the end of 2004, became the new partner of Allianz Dazhong Life Insurance after snapping up the entire 49 per cent stake previously held by Dazhong Insurance Company last October.

"CITIC Trust shares the same goal with Allianz to become a leading life insurer in China and will support the company's investment strategy," Molt said. Dazhong Insurance, meanwhile, focuses its business more on non-life insurance, he added.

The JV of the world's largest insurer by gross premium has infused 50 million yuan (US$6.17 million) in new investment since changing its partner, bringing its total investment to 300 million yuan (US$37.0 million), said Molt.

"We won't make a huge one-off injection in the Chinese market like some companies but will increase our investments step by step," he noted.

He made the remarks yesterday after the official launch of a new sales service centre in Shenzhen of South China's Guangdong Province. The new operation is under the charge of its Guangzhou branch.

Molt told China Daily that the centre would possibly be upgraded as a branch in the future, but it would like to test the market performance first.

The JV's application to set up a branch in lucrative East China's Zhejiang Province has been approved by the central regulatory body, which will be open "very soon," he said.

It also plans this year to establish branches in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, depending on when it could be granted the licence.

While Allianz's life insurance business speeds up its expansion in China, its wholly owned non-life insurance operation in the mainland, based in Guangzhou, is applying to the central regulatory body to upgrade to be a subsidiary from a branch.

"Only with the upgrade could we set up more branches in China," Raymond Wong, deputy general manager of Allianz Insurance Company Guangzhou Branch, told reporters. The branch began operation in February 2003.

Some market analysts believe it could get the permission from the authority soon, and its first branch is mostly likely to be located in Shanghai, where Allianz's life insurance JV is headquartered.

The non-life insurance sector also set up a new sales centre yesterday, which Allianz said could maximize the synergies between its life and non-life insurance operations in China.

Clarifying that both centres are independently run, Wong ruled out market speculation that Allianz has been selected as a pilot by the Chinese regulatory authorities to run both life and non-life insurance businesses in a company.

Allianz's life insurance JV recorded 188 million yuan (US$23.2 million) premier revenue in 2004, up 13 per cent from a year ago, while the non-life insurance branch achieved 44 million yuan (US$5.4 million) gross premium in the first half of last year, representing an increase of 34 per cent from the corresponding period.

Source: China Daily

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