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UPDATE 2-Generali expands presence in Malaysia via Axa deal

(Recasts headline, lead, adds details)

MILAN/PARIS/KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 (Reuters) - Italy’s top insurer Generali has agreed to buy Axa’s insurance assets in Malaysia and take full ownership of a joint-venture it runs in the country to strengthen its local presence.

The deals will turn Generali into the second-biggest player in Malaysia’s Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance market while also allowing the company to enter the local life insurance sector, it said on Tuesday.

The total consideration for the combined deals is around 262 million euros ($312 million).

The sale is part of French insurer Axa’s efforts to streamline its business in a restructuring launched by Chief Executive Thomas Buberl, a process which includes selling assets in some countries and markets to boost returns.

In December, for example, Axa agreed to sell its insurance activities in Greece to Generali.

Under the latest deal, Generali will buy around 53% of a joint-venture between Axa and Malaysia’s Affin Bank, dubbed AXA Affin General Insurance. It will also take a 70% stake in another Axa’s JV with Affin dubbed AXA Affin Life Insurance.

Axa will receive around 140 million euros from the two sales, the French insurer said on Tuesday.

Generali has also asked Malaysian authorities to allow it to increase its 49% stake in local joint venture MPI Generali Insurans Berhad to 100%. Generali plans to merge this later with Axa Affin General Insurance.

Generali will then operate in Malaysia through two companies, one in the P&C business and the other in the life insurance, holding 70% of each company, while Affin Bank will own the remaining 30%.

Generali and Affin Bank will also strike an exclusive bank-insurance agreement to distribute P&C and life insurance products.

“We are excited to be taking the (merged company) into the second position in the general insurance business arena and I look forward to growing our businesses together,” Affin President and Group CEO Wan Razly Abdullah Wan Ali said in a statement.

The deals are expected to complete in the second quarter of 2022, Generali and Axa said.

Generali sees a negative impact from the deals of around 3.5 percentage points on its solvency ratio.

HSBC acted as sole financial adviser to Generali on the Malaysian deals.

$1=0.8401 euros Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro in Milan, Matthieu Protard in Paris and Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Valentina Za and Jane Merriman

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