SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (Reuters) - China’s Fosun International (0656.HK) is among suitors bidding for ACR Capital Holdings Pte Ltd, the owner of Singapore’s biggest reinsurance firm, in a deal valued at around $1 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said.
If Fosun were to be successful, it would be the first major deal for the conglomerate since its chairman, Guo Guangchang, went briefly missing late last year. The latest move also represents a shift in Fosun’s strategy, which in recent years has struck deals outside Asia.
Fosun and several other suitors are preparing to submit second round bids for the holding company of Asia Capital Reinsurance Group which has operations in the Middle East, China and Japan, the people said.
The names of other bidders could not be immediately ascertained.
While Fosun is known as a highly acquisitive firm, its presence in the bidding does not necessarily signal a done deal, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
“There are other Western and Chinese strategics,” the source said.
ACR confirmed that its owners are examining the interest of a number of strategic buyers. “We are however not at liberty to discuss the identities of these potential investors,” it said in a statement.
Fosun declined to comment. Sources declined to be identified as the discussions were confidential.
ACR’s owners include London-based private equity firm 3i, Malaysian state investor Khazanah Nasional, Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp (8002.T).
The disappearance of Guo, a self-styled student of investor Warren Buffett and one of China’s most successful business tycoons, for a few days last year had raised investor concerns.
Fosun has since sought to reassure investors, saying Guo was assisting authorities with an investigation into his personal affairs and business was running as usual.
Fosun has more than one third of its total assets invested in insurance businesses, and Gou has been keen to wade deeper into reinsurance, analysts say. In 2013, Fosun helped set up Hong Kong-based reinsurer Peak Re.
Asia and Australia account for less than 20 percent of global reinsurance premiums, below what the region’s population and economic growth would warrant, Fitch Ratings said in a report last year, citing industry estimates.
Gou has spent more than $30 billion over the past decade building a business empire that also includes real estate and leisure interests.
ACR was set up in 2006 with capital of around $620 million and is ranked among the world’s top 50 reinsurers.
Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Denny Thomas; Editing by Edwina Gibbs