September 24, 2019 / 7:35 AM / 20 days ago

EXCLUSIVE-Allianz, Nippon in race to buy Aviva's Asia units for up to $2.5 bln-sources

* About half a dozen suitors keen on Aviva’s Asia units-sources

* Singapore makes up big portion of profit of Asian businesses

* Aviva announced review of Asian operations last month (Adds source comments on plan, Aviva response)

By Sumeet Chatterjee and Anshuman Daga

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, Sept 24 (Reuters) - German insurer Allianz, Nippon Life and MS&AD Insurance are vying with rivals to buy the Singapore and Vietnam businesses of Britain’s Aviva in a deal likely to be worth up to $2.5 billion, sources said.

Canada’s Sun Life Financial is also among roughly half a dozen suitors competing for the businesses, said the people with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be named as the deal talks are confidential.

The combined deal value for the businesses is estimated to be between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, they said, adding that talks were at an early stage and terms could change.

Asia’s fast-growing economies and its relatively low number of insured people make the region a promising market for global insurers, but some have struggled to scale up in the face of tough competition from larger regional players.

Aviva, Allianz, Nippon Life, MS&AD and Sun Life declined to comment.

Sources said last week was the deadline for the first round of formal bids in a transaction that Aviva aims to finalise by year-end.

The names of the potential buyers and the specifics of Aviva’s planned divestment in Asia have not been previously reported.

In his first interim results since being appointed Aviva CEO in March, Maurice Tulloch announced last month a review of its Asian operations.

Aviva runs six Asian businesses, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. The company’s Asian operations posted a 25% rise in operating profit to 284 million pounds ($352.67 million) in 2018, according to its annual report.

In Singapore and Vietnam, Aviva runs wholly owned businesses, with Singapore contributing nearly half of the Asian businesses’ operating profits.

One source said that since Aviva was not combining its other smaller Asian businesses in this sale process, interest in the two assets was strong and strategic buyers could end up paying more than $2.5 billion.

The latest move comes after Aviva unveiled hundreds of job cuts globally in June and overhauled its UK business. ($1 = 0.8053 pounds) (Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong and Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Additional reporting by Takashi Umekawa in Tokyo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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