OCBC’s Great Eastern in talks to buy MetLife Malaysian arm, sources say

Singapore insurer Great Eastern Holdings Ltd. is in talks to buy MetLife Inc.’s Malaysian venture, according to people familiar with the matter.

The subsidiary of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. is conducting due diligence on AmMetLife Insurance Bhd. and seeking regulatory approval to clinch the deal, the people said. A transaction could value AmMetLife, which the US company jointly owns with Kuala Lumpur-listed AMMB Holdings Bhd., at $250 million to $300 million, the people said.

An agreement could be reached within the next few months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Talks are ongoing and could still fall apart or face delays, they said.

Spokespeople for MetLife and Great Eastern declined to comment. A representative for AMMB said any announcements will be made in accordance with listing requirements.

A deal would see Great Eastern prevail in its pursuit of AmMetLife Insurance. The Singaporean firm was interested in acquiring the unit last year, even as Zurich Insurance Group AG had emerged as the frontrunner to buy a majority stake, Bloomberg News reported at the time.

MetLife and AMMB teamed up to form their Malaysian insurance partnership AmMetLife in 2014, its website shows. The parties started exploring a potential divestment of the business in 2020, people familiar with the matter said at the time. 

AmMetLife offers life insurance and wealth protection services through nearly 200 AmBank and AmMetLife branches in the country, according to its website. It reported about 307 million ringgit ($68 million) of gross earned premiums for the six months ended Sept. 30, a 16.7% increase from a year earlier, according to its latest financial report.

Founded in 1908, Great Eastern has more than S$100 billion ($75.1 billion) in assets and over 14.5 million policyholders, its website shows. It has life, general and group insurance operations as well as an asset management arm called Lion Global Investors Ltd. Great Eastern operates in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia and has a presence in China as well as an office in Myanmar, according to the website. –BLOOMBERG