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AXA raises stake in Indian insurance joint ventures to 49%

[MUMBAI] French insurer AXA has raised its holdings in Indian insurance joint ventures with Bharti Enterprises to 49 per cent, the latest in a slew of similar deals after a rule change easing cap on foreign ownership in the local insurance companies.

The government earlier this year allowed foreign ownership in the US$50 billion Indian insurance sector to up to 49 per cent from a maximum permissible 26 percent stake, a move that is aimed at giving a boost to the capital-starved sector.

AXA has raised stakes in its life and non-life insurance joint ventures with Bharti to 49 per cent from 26 per cent, the two companies said in a statement on Tuesday. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The easing of foreign ownership rules has opened doors for foreign insurers such as Prudential Plc and Standard Life Plc to take a higher interest in the business in India, where insurance penetration is low.

Last month, Japan's Nippon Life Insurance Co said it has agreed to raise its stake in Reliance Life Insurance, a unit of Indian billionaire Anil Ambani's Reliance Capital Ltd to 49 per cent.