January 21, 2015 / 2:08 AM / in 3 years

Alibaba seeking stake in insurer New China Life: state paper

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N), the world’s biggest e-commerce company, is planning to buy shares in the state-run New China Life Insurance Co Ltd (601336.SS), Shanghai Securities News said on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

People ride a double bicycle past a logo of The Alibaba Group at the company's headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song

The newspaper reported that Central Huijin Investment Ltd, the investment arm of the Chinese government and the largest shareholder in the insurer, plans to sell some of its stake to Alibaba. It did not give any details on the size of the deal.

Central Huijin currently owns 31.34 percent of the insurer, according to the paper.

New China Life Insurance asked for a trading suspension on Jan. 19, saying it was in the midst of negotiations that would affect its shareholding structure.

An Alibaba spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called market speculation. A spokesman for New China Life Insurance said: “currently, there is nothing we can tell you.”

Alibaba is already invested in China’s insurance market. The founders of Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) were among a consortium of investors who purchased stakes in Ping An Insurance Group Co of China Ltd (2318.HK) (601318.SS) in a HK$36.5 billion ($4.7 billion) deal in December.

New China Life Insurance has a market capitalisation of $24 billion and provides life insurance services and products.

Reporting by Engen Tham in Shanghai and Paul Carsten in Beijing; Editing by Miral Fahmy

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