Allianz plans US$500m for region
Allianz, one of the world's largest institutional investors, says it is investing US$500 million in regional equity markets.
About US$250 million has already been placed and the company expects total exposure to Asian markets to top $1 billion within four years.
Henning Schulte-Noelle, chairman of the board of management, said the company had opened a Hong Kong asset management operation which will eventually total five fund managers.
Mr Schulte-Noelle said: 'In Europe and in the United States we have expert knowledge of markets and companies - prerequisites for successful international portfolio diversification.
'In Asia we are faced with a gap in market know-how and we need to build up our portfolio-management infrastructure in line with our expertise in European and American markets.' Last year, the group's worldwide gross premium income was US$49 billion, with assets under management totalling $170 billion.
The company is aiming to parallel its European and American growth path by developing multiple lines of insurance business involving both industrial risk and personal business. Industrial insurance for major Asian projects include Chep Lap Kok airport and Malaysia's Petronas Twin Towers.
The company has a subsidiary in Hong Kong, with Allianz Cornhill Insurance; and operations in eight other Asian countries. On the mainland it has representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Bernd Gutting, managing director of the Hong Kong operation, said the company would initially focus on regional blue chip stocks.
His team will support insurance subsidiaries in corporate finance, treasury management and investment planning.
Mr Gutting said: 'Unlike specialised fund management houses, we will not be seeking money from the local markets for reinvestment in the same markets. The funds that will be allocated on a long-term basis to the Far East are coming from Allianz companies in Europe and the US.' The company is calling for increased deregulation across the region to boost competitiveness and services.
'Many of the most dynamic markets in the region remain closed to numerous insurers from abroad who clearly have a valuable contribution to make in minimising the extensive industrial and ecological risk that accompany fast growth.
'The World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services of July 1995 was a step in the right direction when it comes to opening insurance markets in Asia. But there is still much work to be done. We at Allianz are continuing our appeal for increased market deregulation in Asia.'