Mainland insurers are off to a slow start in property investments in and outside the country as they gradually build up specialised teams and pin down strategies following a relaxation of policies by state authorities.
In 2012, the industry regulator allowed them to put as much as 20 per cent of their assets under management – 8.3 trillion yuan (HK$10.5 trillion) by the end of 2013 – into the property market. Data from the top insurers, China Life Insurance and Ping An Insurance, showed property investment was only at a low single-digit percentage of their overall portfolio.
“That’s a realistic approach. The key point is it’s not a race. It’s about doing things well rather than quickly,” said David Hand, an international director of capital markets at Jones Lang LaSalle.
On that front, Ping An, the mainland’s second-largest life insurer, bought the Lloyd’s Building in London in July last year for £260 million, the first direct overseas property deal by a Chinese insurer. No other transactions have been announced yet, although domestic media has reported that China Life is also close to a deal in London.