Hong Kong insurance giant AIA Group and China Strategic Holdings, an investment firm backed by billionaire Henry Cheng, are among final bidders for Bank of East Asia’s wholly owned life insurance unit, reported Bloomberg citing people with knowledge of the matter.
The companies have submitted binding bids for BEA Life, proceeding into the final stage of negotiations, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. BEA, which counts activist investor Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp as a shareholder, could raise about $500m to $600m from a potential transaction, people familiar with the matter have said.
An announcement on the sale outcome could come as early as this month, the people said. Other bidders could emerge and talks could still be delayed or even fall apart, the people said. Representatives for AIA and BEA declined to comment, while a representative for China Strategic didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
BEA started a process of selling its life insurance unit in a bid to boost profitability and lift its shares. As part of the deal, the Hong Kong-listed lender is also seeking to enter into a long-term exclusive distribution agreement that will provide an ongoing source of revenue as a distributor of insurance products through its platform.
BEA Life had about HK$25.4bn ($3.3bn) in assets as of the end of June, according to BEA’s latest financial report. BEA’s commission income from sales of BEA Life products increased by about 49% in the first half of last year despite a drop in new premium income.