February 20, 2009 / 10:59 AM / 10 years ago

Prudential in lead to buy AIG Japan units: sources

TOKYO (Reuters) - Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N) is leading the race to buy two Japanese life insurers put on sale by American International Group Inc (AIG.N) in a deal due to close next week, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

AIG Edison Life Insurance Co and AIG Star Life Insurance were put on the block last year as part of AIG’s efforts to shed assets globally following a bailout by the U.S. government.

U.S.-based Prudential and Canada’s Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO) joined the first round of bidding in December and are expected to place final bids next week, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity as the bidding is not public.

The final price could be between 100-200 billion yen ($1.1-$2.1 billion), one of the sources said.

Prudential is the front-runner, the sources said. As well as offering a better price, Prudential appears willing to buy both insurers while Manulife may be interested in buying only one.

“At this point Prudential is in the lead because it is offering a higher price,” said one source with knowledge of the bidding process.

Prudential of Japan spokesman Masato Kuroda, Manulife Life Insurance spokesman Minoru Shimizu and a spokesman for AIG in Japan all declined to comment.

Reporting by Emi Emoto, Taro Fuse and Chikafumi Hodo; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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