First Origin acquires Hong Kong Life Insurance for $914 mln

HONG KONG, March 21 (Reuters) - First Origin International

Ltd, a Hong Kong-based investment firm, has agreed to acquire

Hong Kong Life Insurance Ltd for HK$7.1 billion ($914 million),

said two of the owners of the Hong Kong insurer in the latest

insurance deal in the territory.

The unlisted insurance firm's owners - five Hong Kong-based

financial institutions including Chong Hing Insurance Co Ltd, a

unit of Chong Hing Bank Ltd - have agreed to sell

their respective equity stakes to First Origin.

First Origin mainly focuses on investments in financial and

technology sectors in Asia, one of the owners, Chong Hing Bank,

said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange late on

Monday.

Hong Kong Life Insurance is one of the last remaining

independent life businesses in the financial centre, and ranked

10th in terms of new business annual premium among life insurers

in the city in the third quarter of 2016.

Last year, China's Thaihot Group, a relatively

new entrant to Hong Kong financial circles, agreed to buy Dah

Sing Financial's life insurance unit for $1.4 billion

in Hong Kong's most expensive insurance M&A.

In another deal that closed last year, China's JD Capital

bought Ageas' Hong Kong insurance unit for $1.4

billion.

Hong Kong is a developed life insurance market, with a life

and health insurance premium-to-GDP ratio of 13.4 percent in

2015, the second-highest in Asia, according to Swiss Re.

Still, the market offers strong growth, with Swiss Re

forecasting premiums to grow 9.2 percent in 2016, making it

attractive to new entrants.

Hong Kong Life Insurance was founded in 2001 by OCBC Wing

Hang Bank, Asia Insurance Co, Shanghai Commercial Bank, Chong

Hing Bank and Wing Lung Bank. OCBC Wing Hang Bank owns a 33

percent stake while the others own about 16.7 percent each.

Hong Kong Life sells insurance through 180 outlets using

branch networks of Chong Hing Bank, OCBC Wing Hang, Shanghai

Commercial and Wing Lung Bank.

The statement on Monday said the banks would now enter into

a product distribution agreement with the new owner of Hong Kong

Life after the closure of the transaction, which is subject to

regulatory approvals.

($1 = 7.7663 Hong Kong dollars)

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Stephen Coates)