Beijing-based financial holding firm JD Group has put its Hong Kong insurance business, FTLife Insurance, up for sale and a deal could fetch between $2bn and $2.5bn, reports Reuters citing three people with knowledge of the matter.
A sale of the whole business, if completed, will be one of the top five insurance M&A deals ever in Hong Kong, a key market for insurers due to rapidly growing wealth and demand for insurance products from Chinese investors, Refinitiv data show.
JD Group acquired FTLife for HK$10.7bn ($1.4bn) in 2016 from Belgian insurer Ageas, underscoring Chinese companies' strong appetite to grow through acquisitions in the Hong Kong financial sector.
Potential bidders for FTLife are expected to include Hong Kong conglomerate Chow Tai Fook and Asian private equity firm PAG, two of the people said.
JD Group could decide to retain a minority stake in FTLife, one of the sources said, adding the sale could also attract a bid from a Japanese insurer looking to tap the rapidly growing Hong Kong insurance market.
JD Group, which has brokerage, trust, mutual funds and private equity businesses, was once the most valuable company on the Chinese National Equities Exchange and Quotations, the country's most active over-the-counter equity exchange. It had invested in more than 200 companies, of which about 60 are either listed or in the process of going public, according to the company website.
FTLife was the 12th largest individual life insurer in Hong Kong by annualised premium equivalent, with a 1.4% market share at end-2017, according to a September Fitch ratings report on the company. The insurer has more than 2,800 financial consultants and staff, as per its website.
JD Group is looking to exit FTLife at a time when China is cracking down on privately-owned financial holding firms, whose sprawling business shareholdings and overseas investments have raised some concerns amid a deleveraging exercise.