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szdaily -> Business -> 
Foreign insurers gear up to tap China’s pensions business
    2019-04-16  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

FOREIGN insurers including Generali and Prudential Plc are in early talks with authorities to enter China’s private pensions sector, sources with knowledge of the matter said, as China opens up to overseas companies.

Hong Kong-based AIA Group and Manulife Financial are also considering similar moves, Reuters quoted the sources as saying Sunday.

China gave approval to the first foreign joint venture firm to establish a pensions insurance business last month and two of the sources said China has been running pilot projects in three provinces involving foreign firms. Those projects end later this year.

Foreign insurers would compete with eight established Chinese pension insurance firms that dominate the potentially lucrative market, where the fast-graying population is set to produce 250 million people older than 60 by 2020.

“The average longevity of people in China is increasing but the pension market remains under-penetrated,” Prudential Asia chief executive Nic Nicandrou said.

Some of the foreign companies are expected to submit applications in the second half of this year to set up pensions businesses, the sources said.

Last month, Heng An Standard Life, a joint venture between Standard Life Aberdeen and Tianjin TEDA International, became the first foreign joint venture entity to receive regulatory approval by China to establish a pensions insurance company.

China’s pensions assets, including those managed by the State, grew by 20 percent in 2017 to 11 trillion yuan (US$1.64 trillion) and are expected to more than quadruple by 2025, consultancy KPMG said in a report this year.

Underlining the potential, consultant Willis Towers Watson said China has one of the lowest ratios of private-employee annuity pension assets to GDP among major economies at 1.5 percent. That compares with 120.5 percent of GDP in the United States and more than 130 percent in Australia.

Prudential has a 50-50 life-insurance venture with China’s CITIC Group. Nicandrou said the venture is “well poised” to participate in the pension market but he did not elaborate on any specific plans.

Rob Leonardi, Asia regional officer for Italy’s top insurer Generali, said the firm was seeing progress in pensions reform in China.

“If this trend continues, we can expect more foreign funded companies to express further interest in the coming months,” he said.

Manulife, which signed a pact with Agricultural Bank of China in 2017 to jointly explore opportunities in China’s pension and retirement market, is looking to establish a joint venture pension management company.

It plans to draw upon its life insurance and asset management joint ventures in China to launch retirement solutions and products, said Calvin Chiu, head of Asia retirement at Manulife Asset Management.(SD-Agencies)

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