UPDATE 1-Sumitomo Life nears agreement to buy HSBC's 18 pct stake in Bao Viet-source

Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:07am EST

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* Agreement likely to be reached by the end of this week-source

* Sumitomo is expected to buy HSBC's 18 pct stake in Bao Viet for about Y30 bln

* Japanese life insurers are stepping up acquisition activities in Southeast Asia

TOKYO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Sumitomo Life Insurance Co is close to agreeing to buy HSBC Holding's 18 percent stake in its Vietnam insurance business for about 30 billion yen ($360 million), a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Sumitomo Life, one of Japan's top four life insurers, and HSBC are likely to agree on the deal to buy the stake in Bao Viet by the end of this week, said the source, who declined to be identified.

A Sumitomo Life spokesman declined to comment.

Faced with weak growth at home, Japanese life insurers are stepping up their overseas expansion efforts with a particular focus on Southeast Asia.

Reuters this month reported that Japan's Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co Ltd and Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Co were among companies shortlisted to buy a minority stake in Indonesia's Panin Life for about $200 million.

In May, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance said it agreed to raise its stake in PT Avrist Assurance of Indonesia to 23 percent from 5 percent.

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