#Samsung Life set to buy 26% in ING Insurance

, which fully-owns ING Life Insurance, is in advanced stages of negotiations to sell 26 per cent of its stake to Korean insurer Samsung Life.

Sources close to the development said Exide had been scouting for a potential buyer for quite some time, adding Samsung Life was one of the companies with which its talks had progressed. The deal was likely to be announced as early as next week, the sources indicated.

The South Korean insurer had already firmed up plans to enter India and had also set up a representative office in the country.

“We are not in a position to comment on this,” said an Exide spokesperson. ING Vysya Life Insurance, too, declined comment. Samsung Life could not be reached for comment; a mail sent to its parent company did not elicit any response till the time of going to press.

ING Vysya Life is set to announce a re-branding exercise on Monday. Exide officials refused to comment on whether the deal with Samsung Life was sealed and whether the name of the new partner would be accommodated in the new brand. Sources said though other global players were in talks for the stake sale, Samsung Life had been shortlisted as the potential buyer.

Exidehas been a shareholder in ING Life since 2005. It held 50 per cent stake in ING Life Insurance. Subsequently, when ING Group exited the venture, Exide acquired the group’s 26 per cent stake; it also bought 16.32 per cent from Hemendra Kothari Group and 7.68 per cent from Enam Group, all for an aggregate consideration of about Rs 550 crore.

After the buyout, Exide had said it would identify and induct a new international player into the life insurance segment to infuse fresh equity into ING Life.

ING Group had given Exide the rights to use the ING brand for a year, after the approval of the deal; this is to end this month. The deal valued ING Life Insurance at about Rs 1,100 crore.

Earlier, brokerages had expressed concern about Exide holding 100 per cent stake in ING Life Insurance, saying this would impact the company’s core operations. A senior official of a Mumbai-based brokerage said the exits of ING and other partners had put the entire responsibility of running the business on Exide. They added, therefore, it made sense to bring in a partner such as Samsung Life, which could use its experience in the global insurance segment in India.

For the April-December period of 2013, ING Life Insurance had posted a net loss of Rs 13.8 crore, compared with a net loss of Rs 30.3 crore for the year-ago period. For the April-December 2013 period, ING Life collected total premium of Rs 1,090.10 crore, against Rs 1,079.26 crore in the corresponding period of 2012. During the same period, its new business premium rose 7.7 per cent. Other Asian insurance giants such as Nippon Life and Mitsui Sumitomo have already established presence in India, through buyouts.(Business Standard)

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