Metlife Taiwan unit gets at least 3 bidders: sources

TAIPEI Fri Mar 18, 2011 7:35am EDT

The MetLife building is seen in New York, March 8, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The MetLife building is seen in New York, March 8, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Competition has heated up in Metlife Inc's (MET.N) second attempt to sell its Taiwan life insurance unit, with at least three local financial firms submitting bids, two sources close to the situation on Friday.

Chinatrust Financial (2891.TW), Taiwan's top credit card issuer, has turned in its bid for the life insurance unit, said one of the sources.

Mercuries Life Insurance, a unit of retailer Mercuries (2905.TW), will do so later in the day, said the other source. Taishin Financial (2887.TW), which counts private equity fund Newbridge NB.UL and billionaire investor George Soros as major investors, said it will bid.

Metlife's first attempt to sell the asset in a $112 million deal last year was blocked by regulators, amid concern the-then buyer, Waterland Financial (2889.TW), was not financially solid.

The planned sale would mark the latest exit by a foreign firm out of the island's $52 billion saturated insurance market after AIG (AIG.N) inked a $2.2 billion deal in January to sell its Nan Shan Life unit.

"We understand why these foreign firms are pulling out of Taiwan. For one thing, it is the very low interest rates here," said Taishin President Lin Keh-Hsiao.

"So, we're trying to get a bargain out of this to discount any surprises that we might not have spotted during checking of its financial books," said Lin, declining to say how much Taishin would offer.

Yuanta Financial (2885.TW), parent of Taiwan's biggest brokerage, was also interested in the unit, a source told Reuters in February. It was not immediately clear if Yuanta was still in the race.

Friday is the deadline for all potential buyers to submit their bids, said one of the sources.

All of the firms except Taishin declined to comment.

(Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Jonathan Standing)

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