Sun Life eyes bigger stake in India insurance venture - CEO

Thu Aug 6, 2015 2:53pm EDT
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By John Tilak

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial Inc (SLF.TO: Quote) is interested in raising its stake in its Birla Sun Life Insurance joint venture in India as it weighs several acquisition opportunities in Asia and North America, its top executive said on Thursday.

Birla Sun Life is a joint venture with Indian conglomerate Aditya Birla Group and is one of India’s biggest insurance companies.

Sun Life has been on an acquisitive streak and has announced at least three deals so far this year, including one to purchase real estate investment manager Bentall Kennedy Group for C$560 million ($426.67 million).

"We continue to turn the soil over and look at a number of opportunities. We're interested in more M&A activity if it makes sense," Chief Executive Dean Connor said in an interview.

"We have quite a bit of capital and balance sheet flexibility."

While this year's deals have been in North America, some analysts speculate Asia might be Sun Life’s next target.

Asia contributed about 13 percent to Sun Life's operating earnings in the second quarter, with net income from the region more than doubling.

India's move earlier this year to increase the proportion of foreign investment allowed in insurance companies could create an opening for Sun Life to expand its presence. The insurer has interest in lifting its stake in Birla Sun Life to 49 percent, from 26 percent currently, Connor said.   Continued...

The logo of Sun Life Financial is seen in Toronto May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill