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LIC sets sights on Hong Kong base

New Delhi, Dec. 18: Life Insurance Corporation of India, the state-owned insurer, is weighing the possibility of opening a beach head in Hong Kong.

LIC sources say the insurer is considering the possibility of setting up a corporate agency in the island nation that will hawk the policies of a Hong Kong-based insurance company.

Hong Kong which has now been thrown open to overseas insurers and serves as a hub for the entire Asia-Pacific region and the Chinese mainland, teems with insurers from all over the world. There were 202 insurers listed with the Insurance Authority of Hong Kong—the insurance regulator—at the end of the January 2002.

LIC is looking to team up with one of these insurers. “Hong Kong has a sizeable expat Indian population. These non-resident Indians belong to the affluent class and are very savvy about insurance products. We are working on a proposal but it is at a very nascent stage”.

Acting as a corporate agent to one of the leading Hong Kong-based insurance companies would imply that LIC agents will sell policies for that Hong Kong insurer. In the process, LIC will get the opportunity to assess market potential and the prospects of achieving profitability in operations by the time it decides to opens its own office in the island nation.

“This way we will test the market and its underlying potential for insurance selling. The insurance laws in Hong Kong are very strict. If conditions are favourable, we might consider the possibility of selling some of our own products Right now, everything is very fluid,” sources said.

Before deciding on becoming a corporate agent, LIC will have to obtain a host of approvals including one from the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) to sell the products of the Hong Kong insurer. It will also need to make a careful assessment of the local laws.

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