December 27, 2018 / 1:59 PM / 6 months ago

Hong Kong's NWS Holdings to buy FTLife Insurance for $2.75 bln

HONG KONG, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s NWS Holdings Ltd has agreed to acquire FTLife Insurance Co Ltd for HK$21.5 billion ($2.75 billion) from Beijing-based financial holding firm JD Group, aiming to diversify its business from infrastructure and services.

NWS, the logistics and transport service unit of New World Development Co Ltd, expects the purchase will generate recurring income and sustainable growth for its shareholders, it said in a statement on Thursday.

“FTLife will be a great addition to the New World family. This transaction is a significant step towards our goal of building an immersive ecosystem of premium quality offerings to our customers and community,” said Adrian Cheng, executive vice-chairman and General Manager of New World Development.

The sale price is higher than the figure of between $2 and $2.5 billion placed on a potential sale last month by three people with knowledge of the matter.

Hong Kong is home to a well developed life insurance market, with a life and health insurance premium to GDP ratio of 17.94 percent in 2017, the second-highest in Asia after Taiwan, according to insurer Swiss Re.

JD Group acquired FTLife for HK$10.7 billion ($1.4 billion) in 2016 from Belgian insurer Ageas NV, underscoring Chinese companies’ strong appetite to grow through acquisitions in the Hong Kong financial sector.

FTLife was the 12th-largest individual life insurer in Hong Kong by annualised premium equivalent, with a 1.4 percent market share at the end of 2017, according to a September Fitch ratings report on the company.

The insurer has more than 2,800 financial consultants and staff, according to its website. ($1 = 7.8320 Hong Kong dollars) (Reporting by Meg Shen; Editing by Keith Weir)

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