China's State Council has approved a restructuring plan by the country's largest property insurer to become a shareholding company with a stronger commercial orientation. The stamp of approval for the revamped People's Insurance Co of China (PICC) marked the first key step in a corporatisation trend among mainland insurers in preparation for proposed public listings, China News Service said yesterday. PICC chairman Tang Yunxiang said yesterday: 'Following completion of the restructuring plan, PICC will then seek as quickly as possible to sell shares and list on stock markets according to the market situation.' The core assets of PICC will come under the shareholding company, to be called PICC Property Insurance Co, with the non-core assets going to another company called PICC Holdings. 'The shareholding company is expected to be formed in the first half of this year,' Mr Tang said. PICC monopolised the mainland insurance market for decades until an industry restructuring in 1999. Its premium income reached 54.81 billion yuan (about HK$51.43 billion) last year, up 8.44 per cent year on year. Mr Tang was cautious on the specifics of a listing plan. 'A host of factors will come into play before a decision is made on timing and listing venue,' he said. Hong Kong-based financiers predicted initial public offerings in Hong Kong by mainland insurers this year would be the bright spot in the market.