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S&P Global Market Intelligence offers our top picks of insurance news stories and more published throughout the week. Please note that some entries may have links to third-party sources that require a subscription.

Australia bushfires yield mounting insurance losses

* The Insurance Council of Australia said insurance losses from the bushfires in the country have now reached A$700 million. Insurers have received 8,985 claims from the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia since September and this is expected to rise.

* Suncorp Group Ltd. logged A$519 million in total natural hazards costs for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2019, which is A$109 million above its natural hazard allowance for the first half.

* Insurance Australia Group Ltd. has increased its gross reinsurance protection to up to A$10 billion for its 2020 catastrophe reinsurance program. Overall bushfire events are expected to contribute more than A$160 million of net claim costs in the first half of 2020, post-quota share.

Expansions and partnerships

* China's insurance regulator approved the establishment of an asset management unit by Cigna & CMB Life Insurance Co. Ltd., the fourth entity to be formed by joint ventures between Chinese and foreign insurers, Sina reported.

* Ebix Inc.'s joint venture with the Bombay Stock Exchange has secured approval to act as a direct insurance broker under the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Insurers Brokers) Regulations of 2018.

* Prudential Vietnam Assurance Pvt. Ltd. signed a 20-year exclusive bancassurance agreement with Southeast Asia Commercial Joint Stock Bank, or SeABank. The agreement is expected to be effective from April.

Deals and other transactions

* Housing Development Finance Corp. Ltd. has completed its acquisition of a 51.16% stake in Apollo Munich Health Insurance Co. Ltd. for 14.96 billion Indian rupees, Business Today India reported.

* Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. acquired a minority stake in Malaysian broker SP&G Insurance Brokers Sdn Bhd., as part of its strategy to expand its commercial insurance footprint in Asia and extend its reach in the global aviation sector.

* Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. Ltd. is selling 1,739,071 common shares of Bermuda-based RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd. in an underwritten public offering.

* South Korea's KB Financial Group Inc. and Woori Financial Group Inc. are among the companies joining the preliminary bid for Prudential Life Insurance Co. of Korea Ltd., set to be held Jan. 20, Pulse reported.

In other news

* The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India imposed a penalty of 10 million rupees on Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Co. Ltd. over concerns related to the legitimacy of certain transactions amounting to 1.14 billion rupees.

* Hong Kong-based Peak Reinsurance Co. Ltd. has renewed and upsized its Lion Rock Re Ltd. reinsurance sidecar to US$77 million.

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