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Proposal to allow PE investment by insurers
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A CPPCC member has proposed the industry regulator allow insurers to undertake private equity investment in order to spread their risks.

"Due to the already high valuation of A shares, insurance capital's entry into the PE sector can help spread investment risks," Yang Chao, chairman of the country's largest life insurer China Life, has said in his proposal to the CPPCC.

Yang is a new member of the 11th National Committee of the CPPCC.

Currently, insurance companies can put no more than 20 percent of their assets into equities, but mostly in the form of stocks and funds.

"An insurance industry investment fund, led by several big insurance companies, could be set up to propel their investment into quality unlisted companies and infrastructure projects," said Yang in his proposal.

Yang is seeking faster evaluation and fewer steps to quicken the approval and preparation processes for PE investment.

PE investment periods usually range from 10 to 20 years, which perfectly match life insurers' capital, said Yang.

Chinese insurance companies have gained some experience in this regard. Since March 2006, when the pilot regulation on insurance capital's investment in infrastructure was released, around 10 debt investment funds have, or are expected to have been, founded.

China Life, for instance, spent 35 billion yuan in taking over a 32 percent stake in China Southern Power Grid and took part in the operation of Bohai Industrial Investment Fund, the first locally invested private fund in the country.

"PE investment usually entails higher returns but also carries higher risks," said Wang Xiaogang, an analyst with Orient Securities. "The success of such investments largely depends on the investor's experience and abilities."

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