January 25, 2018 / 9:17 AM / 2 years ago

Nippon Life eyeing acquisitions to drive growth: new president

Nippon Life Insurance's upcoming president Hiroshi Shimizu speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nippon Life Insurance is looking at potential acquisition targets for growth, its new president said on Thursday, as Japan’s largest privately-owned life insurer faces a shrinking population and low interest rates at home.

“M&A is an important option for our growth,” said Hiroshi Shimizu, who was named Nippon Life’s next president on Thursday, succeeding Yoshinobu Tsutsui, who is leaving after seven years at the helm.

Shimizu, currently its senior managing executive officer, is expected to take charge from April 1.

Nippon Life, with 74 trillion yen ($678.34 billion) in assets, and rival Japanese insurers have ramped up on overseas acquisitions and strategic investments in a bid to diversify their geographic and business footprint.

The insurers are under pressure to seek newer markets as their traditionally expensive death benefit policies are likely to see waning demand as the population in the working age group with families to support, declines.

During Tsutsui’s tenure, Nippon Life spent at least 700 billion yen to acquire stakes in insurers and asset management companies at home and abroad.

The deals included a A$2.2 billion acquisition of an 80 percent stake in National Australia Bank’s life insurance unit and the $2.5 billion purchase of smaller domestic rival Mitsui Life Insurance Co, both completed in 2016.

In December, Nippon Life announced a deal to acquire 24.75 percent of U.S. investment firm TCW Group Inc from private equity firm Carlyle Group LP.

“We would like to expand (the) asset management business,” said Shimizu, 56, who joined Nippon Life in 1983.

Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath

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