By (On Businessweek.com under Insurance no author given)
Posted by Adam Lindheim
China's life insurance sector is becoming crowded. Just seven years ago there were no more than a dozen companies active in the market. At the end of 2006, this had risen to 46, over half of them foreign joint ventures.
At least 10 more foreign names are likely to be added to this list over the next three years, according to the majority of overseas insurers interviewed for a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey. A similar number of respondents said they expect the foreign firms' share of the overall insurance market to hit 10% by 2010. Last year, this share stood at 5.9% in the life sector and 1.2% in the property and casualty sector.
"Some companies are projecting premium growth of 200-300% in 2007 thanks to the wider geographical market, the wider range of products and the opening of new branches," said David Campbell, PwC's Asia Pacific insurance practice leader.
The bullishness is understandable. In 1996, China's total life insurance premiums came to US$3.76 billion. In 2006, it was US$53.8 billion, according to the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC). Financial services consultancy Celent has predicted that China will become the fourth-largest life insurance market in the world by premiums in 2008, after the US, Japan and the UK.