AIA Group's shares hit a new high yesterday after news that the third-largest Asian-based insurer was buying ING Group's Malaysian and Thai businesses. AIA rose 3.6 per cent to a record HK$29.95, before easing to close with a gain of 2.25 per cent at HK$29.55. It was also the second most-traded stock, with 46 million shares worth HK$1.35 billion changing hands. Bloomberg reported on September 29 that ING, which is selling assets to comply with European Union orders, was negotiating final terms to sell its businesses in Malaysia and Thailand to AIA for about €1.4 billion (HK$14 billion). A deal could be announced by the middle of this month. AIA and ING declined to comment. AIA chief executive Mark Tucker said in February the company was looking into possible acquisitions at financially viable prices. The insurer's new business has delivered eight consecutive quarters of growth under his guidance. AIA also said last month it would buy a controlling stake in Sri Lanka's second-largest life insurer, Aviva NDB Insurance. Last month, its parent firm American International Group sold US$2 billion of shares and cut its stake in AIA to 13.69 per cent. This was part of a plan to reduce AIG's bailout bill, which has swelled to about US$180 billion. Analysts said it would not be surprising to see more divestment by AIG of its stake in the near future, assuming that the equity market strengthened in the fourth quarter. Thailand is AIA's second-largest market by value of new business in the six months to May. Malaysia is the sixth-largest among AIA's 14 markets in the Asia Pacific. It also has operations in mainland China, Singapore and South Korea.