ICBC to take 60 percent stake in Axa Chinese unit

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French insurer Axa SA said Thursday that the world's biggest bank, ICBC of China, will take a 60 percent stake in its Chinese insurance unit Axa-Minmetals Assurance.

Axa said the entry of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), ranked the world's largest by market value, will not affect daily management at the business which will come under an Axa official.

Axa-Minmetals Assurance specialises in life insurance and was set up in 1999 as a joint venture with China Minmetals corporation, a statement said.

Premiums totalled 830 millions yuan (90 million euros, 125 million dollars) in the first nine months of the year, up 54 percent from the same period in 2009.

Axa held 51 percent in the company but this will fall to 27.5 percent after ICBC takes its stake. Minmetals will in turn hold 12.5 percent.

Once the deal is completed, the company will be renamed as ICBC-Axa Life Insurance.

"This tie-up with ICBC is ideal to allow us to significantly increase our presence in the Chinese insurance market," Axa chief executive Henri de Castries said in the statement.

© 2010 AFP

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