US insurer to concentrate on its home market where challenges are mounting
US insurer Metlife Inc plans to exit its India insurance venture to concentrate on its home market where challenges are mounting. The Indian venture has grown significantly in the past few years after Punjab National Bank became a 30% stakeholder in 2013. But the US company is among the few overseas investors that didn’t take advantage of the rise in the limit on foreign holding in insurance to 49% from 26%, a shift that has sparked consolidation in the industry.
PNB Metlife is valued at about ` . 6,500 crore, said two people aware of the development, with an embedded value of ` . 2,100 crore.
“Metlife is planning to sell its (26%) stake in the Indian life insurance venture,“ said one of them.
“Discussions have begun with global investment banks. Metlife is looking to globally restructure its businesses.“
A Metlife Inc spokesperson said, “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on market lation. India is a high potential market and we are pleased to see how it is developing.“
It’s not clear whether other investors will look to exit. They include the M Pallonji group, which has a 17.15% stake, Elpro International (12.75%), IGE (8%) and J&K Bank (5.08%). Chintalapati Holdings exited in 2013 by selling its stake to PNB, which has a lock-in of five years or till a premium income of `. 5,500 crore is generated, whichever is earlier. PNB has so far genera . 1,600 crore of pre ted about ` mium income.
“Metlife’s senior manage ment visited India recently and they have decided to exit this market owing to the po or performance of the JV,“ said the second person.
“They have hired an invest ment bank and are reasses sing the market.“
Metlife’s India unit had sha re capital of `2,128 crore at the end of March. Embedded value is equivalent to the share capital, which is half of what is required for a possible listing, said one of the persons cited above, thus ruling out that avenue. Embedded value is the present value of future profits. The company has assets under management of `. 14,158 crore. Its 13th month persistency is 70%. The company is well capitalised with the solvency margin at 212%.
After the entry of PNB, the company’s market share rose to 4% from 1.5%.
The company is present in 7,000 locations, including PNB branches. It is the secondlargest public sector-promoted life insurance after State Bank of India-led SBI Life.
Bank-led insurance companies have been performing better than others due to lower cost of distribution.
The rise in the cap on overseas investment has sparked consolidation in the insurance industry, which faces challenges in slowing growth and regulatory intervention. HDFC Life and Max Life are in the process of merging, while the largest private sector life insurance company ICICI Prudential Life listed its shares in September.
Shareholders have been reassessing strategies due to low margins. New business margins for Indian insurers are at 8-17% compared with 15-50% for regional peers, a Credit Suisse report has said. Sales of unitlinked insurance plans have revived with the uptick in the stock markets. PNB Metlife had seen 18% growth in new business income, next only to Kotak Life and SBI Life.Growth in new business income has picked up to 13-15% in recent months. In the last financial year, new business income rose 15% for private sector companies.
Source: The Economic Times
Date: 01st November,2016