Chinese insurer breaks records in Belgium

30 November 2007

Ping An Insurance Group has made a record-breaking deal by making the biggest ever foreign purchase by a Chinese insurer.

The insurance firm has bought a 4.2 per cent stake in Fortis, which is Belgium's biggest financial services company, for $2.67 billion, causing the company's shares to take the biggest leap in over four years.

Shares in Fortis were boosted by 7.5 per cent on Thursday, following the news.

Ping An now owns the largest share in Fortis of any investor and its president Louis Cheung will join the company board.

According to Bloomberg, this latest deal means that Chinese state-owned companies have spent nearly $17 billion on buying shares in foreign banks this year.

"Chinese financial companies are looking for growth through acquisitions outside their core market," Leslie Phang of Commonwealth Private Bank in Singapore told Bloomberg. "These are certainly very attractive investments from both a return and a diversification standpoint."

After the deal was made, shares in Ping An rose by 5.2 per cent in Hong Kong and 7.5 per cent in Shanghai.

The chairman of Ping An, Peter Ma, said: "The deal will realize valuable benefits because of Fortis's and Ping An's shared business model of an integrated banking and insurance platform."

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