AMMB Said to Hire Morgan Stanley to Sell Insurance Stake

AMMB Holdings Bhd., a Malaysian lender, has hired Morgan Stanley to sell about half of its life insurance operations as it seeks a new partner to develop the business, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

AMMB may seek as much as 500 million ringgit ($162 million) for the stakes in AmLIFE Insurance Bhd. and AmTakaful Family Bhd., one person said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. The Kuala Lumpur-based bank, which last month said it bought back 30 percent of the units from U.K. insurer Resolution Ltd., wants to find a partner with the expertise to help expand the business, the people said.

AMMB may consider selling a controlling stake of 51 percent in the business, one person said. A sale process could begin as soon as the end of this month, the people said.

Global insurers are seeking to tap a growing market in Southeast Asia through acquisitions. Last month, Canada’s Sun Life Financial Inc. and Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund to buy Aviva Plc and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd’s insurance joint venture in the country for about $600 million. Hong Kong-based AIA Group Ltd. agreed to pay $1.7 billion for ING Group NV’s Malaysia life insurance operations in October.

Officials at AMMB couldn’t immediately be reached to comment on the sale plan.

Shares of the lender fell as much as 1.4 percent today, the most in three weeks, and closed down 0.9 percent at 6.34 ringgit. The benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index was unchanged.

AmLIFE has assets totaling 3 billion ringgit at the end of September, and gross earned premiums of 214.5 million ringgit for the half year ending 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.

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