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September 9, 2009

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AXA sees crisis as stimulus for growth

AXA Group expects its China life insurance venture to post double-digit growth in the next few years, according to a senior executive.

"We are prepared to invest a major amount of money in the market," said John Dacey, group regional chief executive officer for Japan and Asia-Pacific of AXA. "We will expand into more second-tier cities and deepen our roots in provinces we already occupy in China."

Its joint venture, AXA-Minmetals Assurance Co, has outlets in east, south and north China with Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing as centers of the three regions.

Dacey said the financial crisis had created opportunities for the French financial company to better leverage its strength in the industry as the company, unlike some of its global rivals, still posted profits and hadn't turned to government aid during the financial fallout.

"We have an ambition to be a more important player in China," he said.

AXA targets being one of the top five players in the markets it is involved in.

However, for the Chinese market, the company is targeting a long-term top-10 position due to the country's huge market and the strong competitiveness of domestic rivals, he said.

Overseas life insurers are still small players in China, accounting for 4.7 percent of the market. Most are still expanding and hadn't broken even yet.

Overseas life insurers expect their market share to grow to 8 percent in three years against competition with domestic firms, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey said earlier this month.

Last year had been difficult for foreign insurers in China, not only because of the slowdown of China's economy, but also because the large domestic insurers had proved more resilient to the slowdown than their foreign competitors, the accounting firm said.


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