October 23, 2012 / 3:30 AM / in 5 years

China opens offshore investment to local insurers

* Insurance funds can invest in more areas, product types abroad

* Funds can now invest 30 pct in domestic wealth management products

SHANGHAI, Oct 23 (Reuters) - China’s Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) widened overseas investment options for its massive domestic insurance sector, naming 45 new countries where the insurers will now be able to allocate assets and expanding the list of allowed asset classes.

In a statement issued late on Monday, CIRC said it lifted the restriction limiting Chinese domestic insurers to invest only in Hong Kong to the 45 countries, which it said were 25 developed economies and 20 developing economies.

However, the quota of year-end total assets domestic insurance funds can invest abroad has not been increased, remaining at 15 percent of total insurance assets of 6.6 trillion yuan or $150 billion.

Approved asset classes have been expanded from equities and bonds to real estate, currency products fixed-income products besides bonds.

The CIRC announcement also widened the scope of investments Chinese insurers can make onshore, increasing the share of total funds they may invest in wealth management products, trust products, real estate and infrastructure projects.

The move is the latest in a series of policy liberalisations directed at China’s insurers in 2012, which have struggled with low returns and asset depreciation.

China Life, the world’s largest insurer by market value, issued a profit warning on Oct. 18 signalling its first quarterly loss since 2008, sending its Hong Kong-listed shares down as much as 4 percent.

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