Aviva Shrugs Off Lost DBS Deal as CEO Eyes Growth Plans in Asia

Aviva Plc’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Wilson said he plans to expand the U.K. insurer’s Asia business after it was outbid for a deal to keep selling policies through Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings Ltd.

“You can make the assumption that we want to grow our Asia business,” Wilson said on a conference call from London on Thursday. “There are a lot of organic opportunities, and we have great joint-venture partners.” Aviva is focused on building its existing business, not acquisitions, he said.

The former CEO of Hong Kong’s AIA Group Ltd. said he was “relaxed” about the lost deal with Southeast Asia’s largest lender, saying the price paid by Manulife Financial Corp. was “far in excess” of what Aviva saw as “economically viable.”

The Canadian insurer agreed to pay the equivalent of $1.2 billion for DBS to sell its products in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Indonesia. Aviva’s contract, which has been in place since 2001, expires at the end of 2015.

Aviva’s Asia unit, led by former AIA executives Chris Wei and Khor Hock Seng, reported a 16 percent increase in the value of new business for the first quarter to 36 million pounds ($55 million), the company said Thursday. That helped lift group new business to 247 million pounds.

Elsewhere in Asia, Wilson said its India business had “become more interesting” since the government raised the cap that foreign insurers can own in local companies to 49 percent from 26 percent. He said Aviva was “assessing” its options, calling its joint venture with Dabur Invest Corp. “helpful.”

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