August 28, 2017 / 5:23 AM / a year ago

China's PICC in talks to acquire, buy stakes in Southeast Asian insurers

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese insurance giant PICC Group is in talks to either acquire or buy a stake in several Southeast Asian insurers and expects some deals to close before the end of the year, a senior executive said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: The company logo of the People's Insurance Company of China (PICC) is displayed at a news conference on the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Xie Yiqun, vice president of the group, formally called People’s Insurance Company (Group) of China (PICC) (1339.HK), said he expects one or two deals to materialize this year with a few more to come in the next two or three years.

PICC’s overseas push is in line with China’s Belt and Road initiative, aimed at building a modern-day “Silk Road” that connects China by land and sea to Southeast, South and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

PICC plans to set up offices and branches in certain Belt and Road countries, while also looking for investment and acquisition opportunities, Xie said at an earnings briefing.

“Insurance regulations vary from country to country,” he said. “We have a map (of target markets). Our progress in each country varies as each has a different level of openness.”

Although Chinese outbounds deals are declining in the wake of increased scrutiny by Beijing, M&A deals by Chinese companies in Belt and Road countries are soaring, with investment for 2017 hitting $33 billion by mid-August, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Executives for the insurer also said it was using Shanghai-Hong Kong and Shenzhen-Hong Kong stock connect schemes as a new channel for investment and had spent 8 billion yuan to 10 billion yuan ($1.2 billion to $1.5 billion) on that in the first half of this year.

The company said first-half net profit rose 14 percent to 8.82 billion yuan, helped by growth in total written premiums.

($1 = 6.6395 Chinese yuan)

Reporting by Kane Wu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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