Dutch financial giant ING is eyeing a stake in a Chinese insurance company to speed up its mainland expansion, according to a senior executive. Patrick Poon Sun-cheong, head of greater China for the group's insurance arm, said it wanted to make the purchase in partnership with Beijing city government-owned Capital Group. Mr Poon was speaking in Dalian ahead of today's opening ceremony for a joint venture between ING and Capital Group - ING Capital Life Insurance Co. 'ING considers China one of our most important markets and aims to become the largest foreign insurer in China. Acquiring a stake in a local insurer is one way to achieve such a goal,' he said. 'ING has always believed acquisitions are a quick and ideal way to expand in a new market.' Mr Poon would not say if negotiations had been taking place, but said ING would consider all opportunities. 'It is like when a man decides to get married, he needs to go out with many ladies to see which is most suitable for him,' he said. China allows foreign firms to hold up to 10 per cent of a domestic insurer. Mr Poon said acquiring a stake in a mainland insurance company was a short-cut to gaining access to the nationwide market, as foreign insurers could operate only in a few cities, and had to apply for a licence to operate in each city. He said ING wanted to increase the capital base of its Dalian joint venture from 200 million yuan to 500 million yuan to meet the requirement for applying to open a branch in Beijing. It also wanted to set up offices in Shenyang and Qingdao. ING has another mainland joint venture - Shanghai-based Pacific Aetna Life Insurance - which it took over from Aetna in 2000. It will set up a branch in Guangzhou soon. Mr Poon said there were no plans to merge the two joint ventures, although he could not rule it out in the future.