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Insurer has major plans for China

ALLIANZ China Life Insurance Co plans to break even in China in four years and will keep expanding by opening two branches every year, its chief executive officer said today in Jinan, Shandong Province.

It generally takes seven years for a life insurance company to break even but for such a big market like China, this timeline may be doubled, said Wilfred John Blackburn, CEO of the Shanghai-based insurer, indicating that the company has four more years to break even in the market.

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

"Growth and profits are both important as we seek a profitable growth," said Blackburn.

The life insurer today opened its eighth branch in China in Jinan, Shandong. 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 German company is looking for national expansion in the China market.

"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, it's a long-term venture."

Blackburn, who took the position five months ago, said he sees no reason to stop expansion in China despite the financial crisis as the crisis brings opportunities for the insurer to accelerate its growth in China while its competitors are curbed by the global financial fallout.

He has streamlined decision-making processes and products to encourage faster growth in China.

The company's single-premium dropped heavily in the first quarter in China. Blackburn said he is relaxed about the premium decrease as the insurer is shifting focus to more profitable regular-premium products.

Overseas life insurers accounted for a mere 4 percent of the market share in China. China's top three insurers, China Life Insurance, Ping An Insurance and China Pacific Insurance, take the lion's stake of the market.

Allianz China has already set up a foothold in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and the provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang, Sichuan and Jiangsu.

Allianz has business in more than 70 countries. In Asia Pacific, it has expanded into 12 markets.


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