Insurance market opens up


The door to China's vast insurance market was flung open last Friday to two European insurers when they received permission from the Chinese regulatory department to set up life insurance joint ventures, said sources with the two companies.

The Holland-based ING Insurance, a member of the diversified financial organization ING Group, and the Italy-based Assicurazioni Generali, the country's largest insurance company, have received licences from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), the industry watchdog.

"We are eager to start our life insurance business in China and this reaffirmed our confidence in further investment in China," said Ewald Kist, chairman of ING Group, in a public statement.

ING, one of the world's largest financial groups, has previously started banking, asset management and real estate businesses in China.

ING Insurance will work out the preparation proceedings of the life insurance venture with a Chinese partner, said Kist.

The company is talking to a number of potential partners, seeking one that can give the best mutual benefits to both parties, he added.

The Italian Generali Group said in a statement that it considers the joint venture as the first step in re-establishing its operations in China. The 170-year-old group debuted in Shanghai in 1908, underwriting fire and marine insurance risks.

"The Chinese insurance market is provided with a promising potential for growth and is a pivotal area in the future development strategies of Generali in Asia," the statement said.

ING set up its first representative office in China in 1993 in Shanghai. During the past seven years, it has focused on training local personnel to expand and administer the companies's local operation, said Lily Yang, chief representative of ING Beijing.

In 1996, Generali set up its first Chinese office in Beijing. It has established a close link with the People's Insurance Company of China and has supported the development of China's insurance infrastructure and aerospace programmes.

Before the two new licences, China embraced four insurance joint ventures and 11 branch offices of foreign insurers. Four other joint ventures and one foreign branch office are currently in the approval process, according to CIRC statistics.

In the recently signed bilateral agreement between China and EU for China's entry into the WTO, China agreed to give seven licences to European insurers before its WTO accession.

(China Daily)

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