Swiss Re Weighs Investment in Chinese

Swiss Re AG has held discussions with Chinese authorities about an investment in embattled insurer Anbang Insurance Group Co., people with knowledge of the matter said.

Swiss Re is among parties that have been approached as China seeks to find fresh funds to shore up the insurer, according to the people. The Zurich-based reinsurer hasn’t made a decision on whether to proceed with a investment, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

As part of the talks, Chinese officials have also been gauging Swiss Re’s interest in acquiring some overseas assets from Anbang, the people said. Anbang’s foreign holdings include Antwerp-based insurer Fidea, Dutch insurer Vivat and Belgian lender Nagelmackers. It also owns a controlling stake in South Korea’s Tongyang Life Insurance Co.

Since China temporarily seized the acquisitive insurer earlier this year and sentenced its chairman to prison, officials been seeking strategic investors both at home and abroad to take stakes in Anbang. Singapore’s state investment firm, Temasek Holdings Pte, has held talks with Chinese authorities about acquiring a stake in Anbang as well as some of its assets, Bloomberg reported this month, and a body that’s owned by some of China’s biggest insurance firms is also considering an investment.

Temasek isn’t currently in any active negotiations about an Anbang transaction, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.

A Swiss Re spokesman declined to comment, and China’s insurance and banking regulator didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment after business hours. An Anbang representative said the company doesn’t comment on market speculation.

Multi-billion Fraud

China said Anbang’s chairman masterminded a multi-billion dollar fraud and used unauthorized sales of investment-type policies to prop up the company’s capital. The Chinese government has indicated fresh investors will eventually replace an industry security fund that injected 60.8 billion yuan ($8.8 billion) of capital into Anbang in April to keep the Beijing-based insurer as a private business as opposed to a state-owned one.

Switzerland’s biggest reinsurer said in May it would continue to welcome an anchor investor after Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp. ended its pursuit of a stake in Swiss Re. The two firms had been discussing a strategic cooperation amid a wave of consolidation in the industry driven by rapid technological change and sluggish growth in insurance premiums.

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