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[HONG KONG] Tokio Marine Holdings Inc is in exclusive talks to buy RHB Bank's general insurance unit in a deal that also includes an agreement to distribute the Japanese insurer's products through the Malaysian lender, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
RHB, Malaysia's fourth-biggest lender, expects the buyer to pay between 3-3.5 times book value of the business, which could make it one of the most expensive non-life insurance deals in Southeast Asia, the people said.
One person estimated the deal value at up to US$500 million.
Tokio Marine, Japan's largest property and casualty insurer by market value, has been the most aggressive among its peers in expanding its global footprint as it fights a shrinking market at home. The planned deal builds upon an exclusive distribution agreement with RHB Bank to sell life insurance products in Malaysia.
Tokio Marine officials were not immediately available for comment, while RHB did not offer an immediate comment. Sources declined to be identified as the information has not been disclosed by the companies.
RHB had initially planned to run a competitive sale process to find the buyer for the general insurance unit, but last week it entered into exclusive talks with Tokio Marine, the people added.
Several other global insurers are still keen to buy the RHB unit if Tokio Marine fails to meet RHB's price expectations, the people added.
Insurers are among the most acquisitive companies in Japan. Tokio Marine alone has spent more than US$15 billion on international deals since 2008. That includes US insurers HCC Insurance Holdings Inc for US$7.5 billion last year, Philadelphia Consolidated for US$4.7 billion in 2008 and Delphi Financial for US$2.7 billion in 2012.