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AIG and China's Life Insurer in Talks Over Possible Bid on Asian Unit

Posted on 26 Feb 2009

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China Insurance Regulatory Commission Vice Chairman Li Kemu said that China Life Insurance Co., the nation's biggest insurer, is in talks with American International Group Inc. over buying the U.S. insurer’s Asian unit.

The Chinese insurance regulator said AIG visited China looking for interest to buy its Asian subsidiary, American International Assurance Co. China Life is in talks over a possible bid for the company, he said.

“This is still under discussion,” he said after a briefing in Beijing today. “We feel AIA is a very good company. At least, its China and Hong Kong operations are not bad.”

AIG, the New York-based insurer forced to sell businesses to repay an $85 billion government loan, said Oct. 3 it would seek buyers for its life insurance and retirement operations in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Japan. Chinese regulators are prompting insurers to increase investments to help boost the nation’s economy after six straight quarters of slowing growth.

Cao Qingyang, a Beijing-based spokesman of China Life, was not available to comment when reached on his cell phone. Bonnie Wu, a spokeswoman for AIA in Hong Kong, declined to comment.

China has told the nation’s insurers to be prudent in their overseas investments, Li Kemu said. Overseas-incorporated Chinese insurers have suffered some paper losses after buying foreign bonds and derivatives, he said today without being specific.

“The negative impact of the global financial crisis on China is gradually emerging,” Li said. His commission will work to prevent any “abnormal” increase in policy redemptions.