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M&A, public offer guidelines
July, 11th 2009

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) is likely to finalise the guidelines for mergers and acquisitions (M&As) of insurance companies in the next two months and is also looking to frame rules for public issue of shares by insurers, its chairman J Hari Narayan said on the sidelines of a health insurance conference on Friday.

Currently, there are no specific guidelines for M&As in the insurance space in India. The new norms would encourage consolidation in the sector.

We are working on some M&A guidelines that will be finalised in the next couple of months, said Mr Narayan on the sidelines of a conference organised by industry body Ficci. He added that the regulator is also looking to frame rules for insurance firms to float initial public offer (IPO) of shares to raise capital. Insurance is a capital-intensive sector and has huge fund requirements.

Asked about reduction in charges of unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips), Mr Narayan replied, We have not taken any view at this point of time. Whatever would be best in the interest of policyholders and insurance companies will be done.

Insurance was opened to private sector investments in 1999. Currently, there are 22 life insurers and 21 general insurance firms in the country. Life insurance is dominated by public sector behemoth Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) while the biggest player in the general insurance category is New India Assurance.

Besides, there is a string of private sector firmsmany of them joint ventures with international insurance firms. Consolidation will lead to fewer but stronger players in the country.

As per Irda data, the life insurance industry clocked Rs 8,652 crore during April-May this fiscal in first-time premium collection while sales in the non-life business stood at Rs 6,226 crore.

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