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Hong Kong's FWD in final talks to form Chinese life insurance JV

Hong Kong-based FWD Ltd. is close to forming a joint venture life insurance company in China, said David Wong, the company's CEO for Hong Kong and Macau and executive vice president for the Greater China region.

Wong, who is overseeing the insurance company's expansion in China, told S&P Global Market Intelligence that he expects FWD to apply for a life insurance license in China within this year. He did not disclose which Chinese company FWD will partner with, but said discussions were in the final stages.

Foreign life companies seeking to operate in China have to form a joint venture with a Chinese company and hold no more than 50% of the joint venture's total equity, according to China Insurance Regulatory Commission rules.

The regulator also requires that foreign insurers set up a representative office in the country two years before applying for an insurance license. Unit FWD Life Insurance Co. (Bermuda) Ltd. opened a representative office in Shanghai in November 2014.

There are currently 28 life insurance joint ventures in China. Among the eight new life insurers that received a license in 2016, none had foreign backing, according to information compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

FWD has operations in Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and, most recently, Japan.