Lloyd's China expects to double business this year - chairman

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The Lloyd’s of London insurance market said on Tuesday it expects its China arm to more than double its insurance premiums this year to 2.5 billion yuan ( £280.93 million) compared with 2015.

A doorman looks out as workers walk in the rain past the Lloyd's of London building in the City of London, Britain, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

China’s insurance market has become one of the world’s largest in recent years, but foreign players find an uneven regulatory playing field still restricts their access.

Lloyd’s China reaped almost 900 million yuan of insurance premiums in 2015, but expects 2.5 billion yuan by the end of this year, Lloyd’s of London Chairman John Nelson told Reuters in an interview, adding that it was talking to a number of Chinese insurers who were interested in joining the platform.

“If I look at the business that we write globally for China including that (with business on Lloyd’s China platform) in dollar terms it’s north of half a billion dollars,” said Nelson.

“China is probably our single more important new-ish market,” he said.

Despite Lloyd’s growing presence in China, Nelson said there were regulations that make it tough for foreign insurance companies to do business there.

“It would be misleading if I were to say China is the easiest place for international companies to operate, but I think it’s one, certainly in insurance, where I think we certainly feel we’ve made progress,” said Nelson.

Due to domestic regulation, it is more expensive for a Chinese insurance company to place reinsurance offshore than in the domestic market, Nelson added.

“Some countries have this, but we would like to see that reduced and I think that would liberalise the market further,” he added.

In October last year, Lloyd’s of London struck a partnership agreement to help China Taiping to expand its global business network.

Lloyd’s investment returns dropped in the third quarter last year, hit by volatile markets.

Reporting by Engen Tham and David Lin in Shanghai; Editing by Kim Coghill