Primus boss confident on Nan Shan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 December, 2009, 12:00am

The head of Primus Financial Holdings, the fund attempting to buy Taiwan's Nan Shan Life Insurance in partnership with a Hong Kong shell company, said he was confident the island's regulators would not block the bid.

The planned US$2.15 billion purchase of stricken US insurer American International Group's Taiwan unit by Hong Kong-based Primus and battery trader China Strategic Holdings has been dogged by speculation in the Taiwanese media that the deal is funded with mainland cash.

But Robert Morse, the head of Primus, said: 'We disclosed the sources of funding to AIG and the regulators. There should be no problem as far back as the regulators need to look.'

Taiwan's Investment Commission turned down the Hong Kong consortium's first application to buy Nan Shan last month, saying it needed more details of their investor base.

Morse said Primus and China Strategic would resubmit the application next week.

Primus owns 20 per cent of the bid vehicle for Nan Shan, Primus Nan Shan. The rest is owned by China Strategic, which was a tiny battery trader before it raised HK$7.8 billion selling convertible notes to fund the deal.

Companies with 30 per cent or more of their funds from mainland sources cannot buy Taiwanese financial services firms.

While insisting Primus Nan Shan has no mainland money, Morse would not answer questions on whether any investors in his fund, which describes itself as a financial services holding company with over US$1 billion of capital, were mainlanders. 'Our investors are entitled to privacy,' he said.

Morse was a senior investment banker at Citi in Asia before he left to found Primus last year.

China Strategic last month hired former Hong Kong financial secretary Frederick Ma Si-hang and ex-Hang Seng Bank chief Raymond Or Ching-fai as chairman and chief executive respectively.

Or has repeatedly said none of the 45 buyers of China Strategic's convertible notes are mainlanders.

When asked if the note-holders could sell their stakes to mainland buyers, Morse said this was a non issue. 'Maybe HSBC could be bought out by a mainland company. They already do business in Taiwan.'


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