Insurance market attracts plenty of foreign interest

By Hung Le   October 2, 2019 | 04:40 pm PT
Insurance market attracts plenty of foreign interest
People enter and exit the AVIVA headquarters building in Dublin. Photo by Reuters/Cathal McNaughton.
Major international life insurance companies are coming to the growing Vietnamese market through bancassurance and acquisition deals.

German insurer Allianz and Japanese insurers Nippon Life and MS&AD Insurance, among several others, are vying to buy the Singapore and Vietnam businesses of Britain’s Aviva in a deal estimated to be worth $2-2.5 billion, Reuters reported recently.

It quoted sources as saying the talks are in an early stage and terms could change, and Canada’s Sun Life Financial and Manulife Financial Corp are also among around half a dozen suitors.

Aviva had originally entered Vietnam in 2011 by establishing a 50:50 joint venture with state-owned lender Vietinbank, one of Vietnam’s three biggest banks by assets, called Vietinbank Aviva Insurance.

In April 2017 Aviva acquired VietinBank’s 50 percent stake, renamed it Aviva Vietnam Life Insurance Company Ltd, and signed an exclusive 18-year deal to distribute its life insurance products through VietinBank's network.

FWD Group, the insurance arm of Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li’s investment group Pacific Century, is about to close a $400-million acquisition of Vietcombank Cardif Life Insurance.

Vietcombank Cardif Life Insurance is a 45:55 joint venture between state-owned Vietcombank, the country’ largest bank by market capitalization, and French insurance company BNP Paribas Cardif, part of the BNP Paribas banking group.

The deal is part of a bancassurance transaction which could be worth up to $1 billion, with the $400-million amount as an initial payment from the insurer for exclusive rights to sell its products at Vietcombank’s branches, Bloomberg said.

Earlier in September U.K.-based Prudential had signed an agreement with South Korea’s Shinhan Bank Vietnam to distribute its insurance products through its network, while Canada-based Manulife entered a similar agreement with local bank ACB.

Prudential and Manulife are both major players in the Vietnamese life insurance market with a 12.7 percent and 12.8 percent share as of early 2018, according to Ministry of Finance statistics.

Their agreements came just after local lender Sacombank and Japanese insurer Dai-ichi Life Vietnam entered a 20-year exclusive bancassurance contract, one of the longest in the industry to date.

According to Phung Ngoc Khanh, general director of the Ministry of Finance’s Insurance Supervisory Authority (ISA), the country’s insurance market has huge potential due to the low penetration and people’s rising incomes and awareness.

In the first half of this year Vietnam’s insurance industry recorded premiums of VND71.15 trillion ($3.07 billion), up 24.4 percent year-on-year. Last year’s growth was also around 24 percent, according to the ISA.

Last year general insurance accounted for 34.2 percent of premium revenues, and life insurance for 65.8 percent.

There are currently has 30 general insurers, 18 life insurers, 2 reinsurers, and 14 insurance brokers, according to ISA data.

The ISA forecasts of 20 percent growth for the industry this year, with the bancassurance channel growing by 30-40 percent.

Vietnam's middle class is expected to double from the current 13 percent to 26 percent of the population by 2026, according to World Bank statistics updated in April.

The country's per capita income rose 9.6 percent year-on-year to $2,400 in 2018, which was up 39.5 percent from five years earlier, according to the World Bank.

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