June 28 (Bloomberg) -- AMMB Holdings Bhd., a Malaysian bank, invited four companies including Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li’s Pacific Century Group to make second-round bids for its life insurance units, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Manulife Financial Corp., Metlife Inc. and Zurich-based ACE Ltd. were also invited to submit binding offers for as much as 70 percent of AmLife Insurance Bhd. and AmTakaful Family Bhd., the people said, asking not to be named because the information is private.
Insurers from Canada’s Sun Life Financial Inc. to Japan’s Dai-ichi Life Insurance are making acquisitions in Southeast Asia to bolster returns as economic growth drives demand for policies. More than $5.9 billion of purchases of insurance assets in the region have been announced in the past year, compared with just $910 million in the previous 12 months, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
AMMB hired Morgan Stanley to sell a stake in its life insurance operations as it seeks a new partner to develop the business, two people said in February. The Kuala Lumpur-based bank said in January that it bought back 30 percent of the units from U.K. insurer Resolution Ltd.
A deal for the insurance assets could be worth as much as $600 million, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing unidentified people.
Officials at AMMB didn’t respond to phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment. Representatives of Metlife, Manulife, ACE and Pacific Century declined to comment or weren’t immediately available.
Shares of AMMB have gained 6 percent to 7.21 ringgit this year, outperforming the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index, which climbed 4.2 percent.
AmLife had 3 billion ringgit of assets at the end of September, and earned gross premiums of 214.5 million ringgit for the half-year ended that month, according to data published on the company’s website. AmTakaful, which offers insurance that complies with Islam’s ban on interest, had assets of 116.2 million ringgit and gross premiums of 14.2 million ringgit in the same period, the data show.
Sun Life and Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. said in January they would acquire an insurance joint venture between Aviva Plc and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. for about $600 million. This month, Dai-ichi Life said it will buy a stake in the life insurance unit of Indonesia’s PT Panin Financial Tbk for about $330 million.