Making news

Hong Kong-based insurer likely to reach deal with Vietcombank

 Insurer FWD Group Ltd. is nearing an agreement to pay about 400 million USD for a unit of the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam JSC (Vietcombank), and a long-term insurance distribution agreement with the bank, Bloomberg reported.

Billionaire Richard Li’s insurer, which is based in Hong Kong (China), outbid competitors including Prudential Plc, said the news outlet.

As part of the deal, FWD will buy a business called Vietcombank Cardif Life Insurance, which is owned by Vietnam’s biggest lender, and BNP Paribas SA’s life insurance unit Cardif.

In a so-called bancassurance transaction, an insurer typically pays an upfront amount for exclusive rights to sell its products in bank branches. That has been a popular way of expanding in Southeast Asia, an area of mostly developing economies with young populations.

Shares of Vietcombank rose as much as 2.3 percent two days ago in their biggest advance since September 13.

Li, the son of Hong Kong’s richest man, is making a big bet on Southeast Asia as FWD paid 3 billion USD for a life insurance business in Thailand in July. The insurer already has presence in Vietnam following a small acquisition in the country in 2016.

Representatives for FWD, Vietcombank, BNP Paribas and Prudential declined to comment but a reliable source said an official announcement could be weeks away./.