Life and pensions giant Prudential is set to grow its presence in Thailand after agreeing to buy the life insurance arm of Thanachart, the country’s fifth-largest retail bank, for up to £368 million.
The two firms have also signed a 15-year joint venture agreement to develop their bancassurance operations in a market where only 2.7 per cent of the population has life insurance.
Despite the current low levels of market penetration, Prudential said gross premium income in Thailand had grown by 16 per cent a year between 2007 and 2011, with bancassurance – the sale of insurance firms’ products through retail banks – accounting for half of first-year premiums last year.
Chief executive Tidjane Thiam said: “We have had a long-standing ambition to significantly increase our presence in Thailand, one of our key target markets in south-east Asia.
“This partnership with Thanachart Bank positions us well for the future and we continue to invest and grow our partnership business, alongside our well established and successful agency workforce.”
Thiam said London-based Prudential will double its market share in Thailand through the acquisition of Thanachart Life, which has about one million policies in force and made a net profit of £25m in the year to 30 June.
Shore Capital analyst Eamonn Flanagan said: “We view this as a smart move by Prudential, snapping up a rare asset in south-east Asia in general, and within Thailand specifically.
“The deal enhances the group’s growing bancassurance presence, completing its agency salesforce elsewhere in the region.”
Profits at Prudential’s Asian division, which spans 13 markets including Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia, rose 20 per cent in the first six months of the year, fuelling a 13 per cent increase in group operating profits to £1.16 billion.