Canada's Sun Life mulls SAR listing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 12:00am

Canada's largest insurance company in terms of assets, Sun Life Financial Services of Canada, is considering listing in Hong Kong.

'A listing plan in Hong Kong would show our commitment to the Greater China region,' group chairman Donald Stewart said.

Sun Life Financial completed a corporate reform in March which transformed it from a company mutually owned by its insurance policy-holders into a shareholding company. Since then its shares have been listed in Toronto, New York, London and Manila.

The company shares closed yesterday at C$29.95 on the Toronto Stock Exchange - more than double their C$12.5 debut price. As of the end of June, the group managed assets of C$340 billion (about HK$1.76 trillion).

A Hong Kong listing would make it the second Canadian-based insurer to list in the SAR after Manulife Financial gained a listing last year.

However, Mr Stewart said the listing was unlikely to happen in the near term because the group wanted to focus on expanding its business in Hong Kong and China. As part of its expansion plan, it will set up an asset-management company in Hong Kong as soon as next year to sell the group's investment funds.

The group in Hong Kong only conducts life-insurance business, but its worldwide income is split equally between life-insurance and asset-management business.

'It would be the right time to expand the fund-management business in Hong Kong as the soon-to-be-launched Mandatory Provident Fund would boost demand for investment funds,' he said.

Mr Stewart said Sun Life would be interested in entering the mainland market if China opened up its fund-management business to foreign companies.

'With China opening up its capital market, we would see a lot of investment opportunities in the fund-management industry,' he said.

Sun Life moved its Asian headquarters from Manila to Hong Kong in July.

Mr Stewart said the move was prompted by Hong Kong being an attractive international finance centre close to China.

Sun Life was granted a life-insurance licence last year by the Chinese Government allowing it to set up a 50-50 life-insurance joint-venture in a mainland city.

Mr Stewart said the joint venture would team with China Everbright Group and would start selling policies to mainland residents next year.

It will sell individual life-insurance in China first due to the restrictions of the licence.

At a later stage, when China relaxes rules for foreign insurers, it plans to step into the pension and health-insurance business, he added.