UPDATE 1-AIA to invest $337 mln in Thai real estate projects

Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:14am EST

* Two office buildings to be completed in 2014, 2015

* Sees growth potential in Thai insurance market

BANGKOK Nov 22 (Reuters) - AIA Group Ltd, Asia's No.3 insurer, said on Tuesday it was investing 10.5 billion baht ($337 million) in Thailand through two large-scale real estate projects.

The first real estate investment, the AIA Capital Center, is the company's largest real estate investment in Thailand to date and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, it said in a statement.

The second investment is another office complex, expected to be completed in 2015, it said.

"Together these two real estate investments reflect our ongoing confidence in Thailand's long-term growth," AIA's group chief executive and president, Mark Tucker, said in a statement.

With its relatively young population and high savings rate, Asia has increasingly become the next battleground for insurance companies such as AIA and rival Prudential.

AIA's Thai unit has operated in Thailand for 73 years and is concentrating on selling policies to Thais not covered by life insurance.

Recent studies by AIA Thailand showed that 76 percent of Thais, more than 48 million people, do not have life insurance, providing room for growth, the statement said.

AIA is the Asian life insurance unit spun off by American International Group Inc, which still owns about a third of the company. It raised more than $20 billion in a Hong Kong offering in 2010.

AIA shares were up 1.3 percent at HK$23.25 on Tuesday, while the benchmark Hang Seng index was 0.14 percent higher.

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