Vietcombank to pull out of BNP Paribas insurance joint venture

By Minh Son   November 4, 2019 | 07:32 pm PT
Vietcombank to pull out of BNP Paribas insurance joint venture
Vietcombank is Vietnam's largest bank by market capitalization. Photo by Reuters.
Vietcombank is selling its stake in a JV with French life insurance firm BNP Paribas as part of a possible bancassurance deal with a foreign buyer.

Its board of directors passed a resolution approving the divestment of an unspecified stake in Vietcombank – Cardiff Life Insurance Co., Ltd (VCLI), the state-owned lender said in a release last Thursday.

VCLI is a 45:55 joint venture between Vietcombank, Vietnam’s largest lender by market capitalization, and BNP Paribas Cardif, part of France's BNP Paribas banking group.

Although Vietcombank’s announcement did not identify a buyer, Bloomberg reported in late September that Hong Kong-based insurer FWD Group Ltd. was nearing agreement to pay around $400 million for VCLI as part of a long-term bancassurance agreement with the bank.

A bancassurance transaction is typically an arrangement between a bank and an insurance company in which the latter pays an upfront amount for exclusive rights to sell its products to the bank’s clientele.

FWD Group, owned by Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li, had outbid several firms, including British insurance giant Prudential, which had been vying to obtain exclusive rights to distribute life insurance products through Vietcombank’s branch network, Bloomberg quoted sources as saying.

According to VCLI’s latest financial statements, as of the end of 2017 it had VND950 billion ($40.79 million) in assets and accumulated losses of nearly VND3 billion ($128,800).

Recently major international life insurance companies have been expressing interest in entering the growing Vietnamese market through bancassurance and acquisition deals.

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

Earlier Prudential had signed an agreement with South Korea’s Shinhan Bank Vietnam to distribute its insurance products through its network and Canada’s Manulife struck a similar deal with local lender ACB.

Phung Ngoc Khanh, general director of the Insurance Supervisory Authority (ISA), said 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 the industry’s premium income was VND71.15 trillion ($3.06 billion), up 24.4 percent year-on-year. Last year’s growth was also around 24 percent, according to the ISA.

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