Japan's largest non-life insurer Millea Holdings will pay 1.06 billion yuan (HK$993.85 million) for a 24.9 per cent stake in Shanghai-based Sino Life Insurance. The purchase will be made through Millea subsidiaries Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance and Singapore-based Millea Asia, which will split the 338.19 million new shares to be issued by Sino Life. A Sino Life spokesman said regulatory approval had been granted for the deal, which comes after Asia General Holdings of Singapore bought a 5 per cent stake in Minsheng Life Insurance this month. Sino Life, Minsheng Life and two other companies, Hengan Life Insurance and Oriental Life Insurance, were approved for formation in November 2000 as China tried to boost the ranks of its insurers before its World Trade Organisation (WTO) entry in 2001. The Sino Life spokesman said the company would start selling life and health policies in September. Set up in December 2001 with paid-up capital of one billion yuan, Sino Life has eight domestic conglomerates as founding shareholders, including steel giant Beijing Shougang Group and property firm Dalian Shide Group. Japanese-listed Millea joins a growing number of foreign financial institutions buying minority stakes in mainland insurers. Under mainland regulations, foreign companies cannot own more than 24.9 per cent of Chinese insurers. However, they are allowed to take up to a 51 per cent stake in non-life insurance joint ventures and up to 50 per cent of life joint ventures, as part of China's WTO agreements. The restrictions will be further lifted after the country's admission's to the WTO.