AIG Failure Helps Rivals in China

Citigroup sees a hole in the market.

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Citigroup's Bob Leung says Asian insurance customers aren't going to stand for a company in as much trouble as AIG, and better-positioned rivals are lining up to steal business even though there's "little risk to policyholders' money" at AIG's Asian life insurance franchise.

[W]e expect strong domestic players such as China Life, Samsung Life, HSBC/Hang Seng Life in Hong Kong and Cathay Life in Taiwan to benefit from faster new business premium growth as consumers seek out stronger players.

China Life ( LFC) is his favorite, with "the strongest balance sheet in the region" and a first-half solvency margin at over 300 percent and solid premium income. That means it can think about buying up battered rivals in China or abroad. China Life shares are up about 4 percent today.

Leung also notes the government's $85 billion bailout of AIG isn't a complete fix, and notes that Asian regulators might want tougher standards for their insurers than they do in the United States.