Allianz Takaful to launch Islamic pensions in 2010
* Deal with GCC banks to issue 25-30 year sukuk debt
* Lobbying for Islamic sovereign debt allocation * Signing new distribution deal
By Cecilia Valente
LONDON, July 1 (Reuters) - Allianz (ALVG.DE) will launch its first Islamic annuity product next year, the head of its Takaful unit said, tapping into a growing number of clients in the Middle East keen to add to their state pensions.
It has long been hard for takaful -- or sharia-compliant -- insurers to sell such products, because of the lack of long-term Islamic bonds with which to match pension liabilities, Abdul Rahman Tolefat told Reuters on Wednesday.
The German insurer's unit had lobbied banks to issue long term debt and unnamed banks had now issued 25-year to 30-year sukuk, Tolefat said at a conference.
"This is really a promising industry, especially in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) -- people are looking for private pensions because state pension are not high enough," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.
Allianz was one of the first Western insurance companies to venture into takaful, in which members contribute to a pool of funds which is used to indemnify participants who suffer a loss, much in the same way as with a mutual insurer.
Allianz Takaful already has a pension product which pays out over a pre-agreed number of years, but annuities that guarantee income until death are still an untapped market.
Allianz Takaful is also lobbying for more access to short- to medium term debt and is asking the Bahraini Central Bank to earmark part of any sukuk issuance to takaful companies, who don't have the clout to compete with large banks.
Earlier this year, the Bahraini Government issued a $750 million sukuk and said last month it will issue a further $530 million of sukuk in local currency.
Takaful companies could still buy these sovereign sukuk on the secondary market but they tend to be too expensive, he told the conference delegates.
Among its projects, Allianz is also pursuing a partnership by the end of the third quarter with a network of distributors. Tolefat declined to say who they are.
(Additional reporting; Frederik Richter; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
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