UPDATE 1-Manulife nears $400 mln deal to buy StanChart's HK pension business-sources
* A deal could come as early as next week
* Retirement savings is big business opportunity in Hong Kong (Adds details of potential deal and background on Hong Kong's pension market)
By Denny Thomas and Saeed Azhar
HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Canadian insurer Manulife Financial Corp is nearing a deal to buy British bank Standard Chartered's Hong Kong pension business for about $400 million in an attempt to narrow the gap with its leading rival, people familiar with the matter said.
Retirement savings is emerging as a big business opportunity for life insurers in Hong Kong as the Asian financial hub is now home to a rapidly ageing population, with a higher life expectancy.
Hong Kong's $80 billion mandatory provident fund (MPF) business is poised for consolidation and companies that lack scale will exit the market, banking sources said. HSBC and Manulife control nearly half of the retirement savings assets in Hong Kong.
Toronto-based Manulife has been stepping up its Asian presence in quest of faster growth. In April, Manulife struck a distribution agreement with Singapore's DBS Group for $1.2 billion, giving it a 15-year partnership to sell products through the lender's Asian branch network.
Asia accounted for more than half of Manulife's insurance sales in the first quarter of 2015.
For Standard Chartered, the sale would come after it exited the Hong Kong consumer finance unit last year, as it seeks to shed sub-scale businesses. Standard Chartered managed about HK$20 billion ($2.6 billion) under Hong Kong's mandatory provident fund (MPF) scheme. Continued...