Tokio Marine seeks further regional expansion, including Malaysia

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(June 25): Tokio Marine Holdings Inc. is seeking acquisition opportunities in Asian emerging markets and elsewhere as it seeks to double profits from those regions, according to the new chief of Japan’s largest property-and-casualty insurer.

“We have group companies in Southeast Asia but they’re small,” Satoru Komiya, who became president on Monday, said in an interview. “If we have a chance to make a further leap in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, we’d like to expand our business.”

Komiya’s quest to deepen the company’s global reach comes after it spent more than $17 billion in the past 11 years on a string of large acquisitions overseas, Bloomberg data show. Tokio Marine and its Japanese competitors are looking abroad to diversify geographic risk and make up for diminishing prospects at home as the population shrinks.

The company is also looking for opportunities in emerging markets beyond Asia, such as Central and South America and the Middle East, said Komiya, 58, who was promoted from senior managing director in charge of overseas businesses. While it isn’t working on any specific deals now, the insurer has compiled a list of potential targets, he added.

“Valuations are high because of excess money globally,” he said. “But if there’s a good chance, we’d like to pursue it actively.”

Overseas insurance businesses now account for almost half of Tokio Marine’s profits, but these mainly U.S.-focused deals -- including the purchase of Houston-based HCC Insurance Holdings Inc. for $7.5 billion in 2015 -- have left Asia and other emerging markets as a minor contributor. The company has said it wants to increase the proportion of these regions’ profits to 20% of its overseas businesses, up from about 10% now.

Early Signs

There are early signs of Tokio Marine’s pivot to Asia deals. Last year, the company agreed to buy the Thai and Indonesian businesses of Sydney-based Insurance Australia Group Ltd. for about A$525 million ($365 million).

Komiya said he’s paying more immediate attention to building non-life insurance business in Asia outside Japan. “Life insurance business takes time” to generate substantial profits, he said.

He is leaving open the possibility of large-scale acquisitions in the U.S. and Europe, where the company bought specialty insurers providing coverage for particular industries and liabilities, as opposed to general auto and home insurance. Tokio Marine HCC and other overseas units will continue to do smaller “bolt-on” acquisitions, the CEO added.

One specific challenge that Komiya is inheriting in his new role as president is a sexual harassment complaint at its U.K. unit. Two executives at Tokio Marine Kiln Group Ltd., a managing agent at Lloyd’s of London, have resigned following the allegations reported by Bloomberg.

Komiya said the unit has set up a third-party committee to investigate the matter and the holding company is being briefed. “We are monitoring the situation to make sure TMK will take appropriate measures,” he said in an emailed response to questions because the story broke after the interview. - Bloomberg