Commercial Union, the composite insurer with annual premium income of $117 billion, aims to launch a general insurance business in Guangzhou in the next year. Top-level managers, including chief executive John Carter and general manager James Rattray, this week met senior mainland officials to submit their business plan. 'We have completed our research and submitted the business plan. We are requesting a licence to start a general insurance business,' Mr Carter said. Worldwide premium income for the group, which is represented in 50 countries, is equally split between general and life insurance. The company has chosen to launch a general operation into China because it replicates the experience the company has from the Hong Kong business. Mr Carter said it would attempt to offer all classes of general insurance including marine, property and commercial. The company will initially target the foreign companies operating out of south China. It hopes to directly compete against domestic groups. China generates about $97 billion in annual premium income, or about 0.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). This is less than Commercial Union's income and compares to developed countries where annual premiums for the industry are about 4 per cent of GDP. Mr Rattray said the company's experience in developing markets, such as Pakistan, Turkey and Vietnam, would help its application. 'China's premium income will be small for several years,' he said. Based on its experience in Turkey, the company could expect to break even in two years. The company, which first opened a mainland agency in 1863, has representative offices in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.