Ageas Said to Narrow Bidders for $1 Billion Hong Kong Business

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Ageas, the insurer that emerged from the collapse of Fortis, has narrowed the list of bidders for its Hong Kong life insurance arm, people familiar with the matter said.

Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li’s FWD Group and Fosun International Ltd. are among the firms invited to submit final offers, the people said. The wholly-owned unit could be valued at more than $1 billion, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

Ageas is selling the business to focus elsewhere in Asia, including in mainland China where new business premiums jumped 52 percent in the first half. Its Hong Kong operations reported 33 million euros ($36.5 million) net income in the first six months of the year, accounting for about 7 percent of Ageas’s total earnings.

The company, which controls Belgium’s biggest life insurer, aims to pick a winner in about a month, one of the people said. China Taiping Insurance Group Ltd., which controls Ageas’s Chinese joint venture, and Anbang Insurance Group Co. had earlier shown interest in the business, the people said.

Representatives for Ageas, FWD and Fosun declined to comment. A press official for Taiping also declined to comment, citing the so-called quiet period ahead of an earnings announcement, while Anbang’s press office didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Li is seeking to buy back the insurance operations he sold in 2007 to Fortis, the Belgian-Dutch financial services company now called Ageas. Li, the son of Asia’s richest man, controlled the Hong Kong business when it was known as Pacific Century Insurance Holdings Ltd.

The tycoon re-entered the insurance industry in 2012, forming FWD Group after he bought ING Groep NV’s insurance and pension units in Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand for 1.64 billion euros.

Fosun, led by billionaire Guo Guangchang, has spent $5.7 billion acquiring insurance assets in the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Any deal for the Ageas business would mark the conglomerate’s first insurance purchase in Hong Kong, the data show.

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