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JD eyes move into online insurance
( China Daily )
Updated: 2018-04-18

JD eyes move into online insurance
Pedestrians walk past Allianz flags in Munich, Germany. [Photo/Agencies]

Retailer teams up with Allianz, buys 33.3 percent stake in its China unit

Competition in China's fast-growing online insurance industry is intensifying as the nation's internet giants are investing heavily in the lucrative sector.

JD will invest 536.6 million yuan ($85.4 million) for a 33.3 percent stake in the China unit of global insurance giant Allianz SE, furthering its push into the financial sector.

The investment will make JD the second largest shareholder in Allianz China General Insurance Company Ltd, the insurance company said in a filing for regulatory approval on Monday.

"Allianz and JD have entered into a long-term partnership to develop a digital insurance joint venture in China. We expect this type of insurance to give consumers even greater confidence when buying online," JD said in a statement.

The investment in the Allianz unit comes as Chinese tech companies are positioning themselves in the online insurance market, including internet giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc.

JD's investment is subject to approval from the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, Allianz said.

"JD has ramped up its efforts in the internet financial sector, such as providing credit products and wealth management services, and accumulated abundant enterprise customers. It plans to move into the online insurance sector to boost insurance sales," said Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-based Wanqing Consultancy.

Liu Qiangdong, founder and CEO of JD, has revealed the company was set to launch an internet insurance service and move into the online brokerage business and internet banking.

"The development potential of China's insurance sector is huge, and the internet heavyweights possess some advantages to rush into the burgeoning industry as they have mastered customer resources and could launch customized insurance services by utilizing big data analytics and precise algorithms," said Li Chao, a senior analyst at market research firm iResearch.

Li said the move will encourage traditional insurance companies to expand their online sales channels, and cooperate with internet giants, such as establishing joint ventures.

In 2013, Alibaba, Tencent and Chinese insurance giant Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China Ltd established the country's first online insurer Zhong An Online P&C Insurance.

Ant Financial Services Group, the financial arm of Alibaba, acquired a controlling 51 percent stake in Cathay Century Insurance Co Ltd in 2016.

In addition, Tencent holds a 20 percent stake of the Hong Kong unit of UK-based insurance group Aviva, and a 15 percent stake in China's Hetai Life Insurance Co. Both insurers have an eye on expanding their presence in digital insurance.

Chinese search giant Baidu teamed up with Allianz and Hillhouse Capital to launch an online insurer in 2015, but the initiative has yet to receive regulatory approval.