AIG sells Asia arm to Prudential

US insurance group disposes key division to British insurer for $35.5bn to settle debt.

    Prudential is set to lead one of the world's fastest-growing financial services markets [Reuters]

    In return for that package, the government got a nearly 80 per cent stake in the insurer.

    As of December 31, AIG had $129.3bn in outstanding government aid.

    Cathy Seifert, an equity analyst at Standard & Poor's, said that she thinks the sale is the "appropriate decision".

    "I think we are probably going to see a more streamlined, paired down company," she told AP Television.

    "To the extent that that becomes more manageable from an operational risk control and financial perspective that's a good thing for everyone."

    Doubts over debts

    A treasury official working on the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was not yet clear whether all the taxpayer money will be returned.

    "It's probable we are not going to get our money back. There's a sense of lost confidence that has affected business operations as well as their [AIG's] value in the market place"

    Bill Bergman, analyst at Morningstar

    The AIA deal will give AIG $25bn in cash and $10.5bn in securities, with the cash portion going back to pay nearly 20 per cent of the almost $130bn in outstanding bailout funds.

    Many analysts remain sceptical that all the funds AIG had taken from the government will be returned.

    "It's probable we are not going to get our money back," Bill Bergman, a Morningstar analyst, told The Associated Press.

    "There's a sense of lost confidence that has affected business operations as well as their value in the market place."

    AIG's next key sale could be Nan Shan, a Taiwanese company.

    AIG is expected to keep Chartis, its larger property and casualty insurance company; two additional Japanese life insurers, and a handful of smaller US-based companies.

    They are very unlikely to be sold, according to a Treasury official, adding that after AIA, Alico and Nan Shan, the remaining pieces will likely be retained by "new AIG".

    Key player

    Following news of AIG's biggest asset sale since receiving multiple bailout packages from the government, US stocks rose on Monday with the Dow Jones industrial average rising 70 points in afternoon trading.

    The AIA deal is expected to double the
    size of Prudential [EPA]

    The AIA deal will turn Prudential into the world's biggest non-Chinese insurer by market capitalisation, ahead of major competitors Allianz and AXA, and grow into double its size.

    The combined group will be the leading life insurer in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as the biggest foreign life insurer in China and India, Prudential said.

    On Friday AIG reported a worse-than-expected fourth quarter net loss of $8.9bn, although the shortfall was nearly 10 times less than in 2008, when AIG recorded $99.2bn in losses.
     
    Prudential, founded in 1848, currently has a market capitalisation of about $23bn.
     
    Sales in Asia already make up half of new contracts for Prudential across a number of countries including China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
     
    The company also has a strong presence in Britain and the US.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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