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Insurance firm plots mainland expansion

ALLIANZ China Life Insurance Co expects its operations to break even within four years and will expand by opening two branches each year on the Chinese mainland, its chief executive officer said yesterday in Jinan, Shandong Province.

It generally takes seven years for a life insurance company to break even but in a market as large as the Chinese mainland it could take twice as long, said Wilfred John Blackburn, CEO of the insurer.

Allianz China was set up 10 years ago in Shanghai as the first Sino-Germany life insurer.

The life insurer yesterday opened its eighth branch on the Chinese mainland, in Jinan. The company also plans to open a branch in Hubei Province in the second half of this year.

Heinz Dollberg, executive vice president of the Asia Pacific division of Allianz SE, said the company is eyeing expansion in the Chinese mainland.

"China is one of the core markets for Allianz in the world," said Dollberg. "We are fully committed to the market. China is not a short-term venture for us."

Blackburn said that he sees no reason to stop expansion in the Chinese mainland, as the financial crisis brings opportunities for the insurer to accelerate its growth while competitors are struggling.

The company's single-issue premium dropped heavily in the first quarter in the Chinese mainland, but Blackburn said he was not worried as the insurer is shifting focus to more profitable regular-premium products.

Overseas life insurers have only a 4 percent market share in the Chinese mainland.

The top three insurers, China Life Insurance, Ping An Insurance and China Pacific Insurance, take the lion's share of the market.


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