The plan by Manulife to seek a takaful licence is in line with the Government’s move to liberalise the financial sector and allow more takaful players into the market.
The liberalisation, among others, would see up to two new family takaful licences being granted this year and allow, with immediate effect, the increase in foreign equity participation in insurance companies and takaful operators to 70% from 49% now.
Group chief executive officer Michael Y.L. Chan said as a company with a global reach and experience, Manulife was heeding the Government’s call to make Malaysia a regional Islamic finance hub.
“We, too, want a slice of the booming takaful market as the present penetration rate in this segment is about 7% compared with about 40% in the conventional side,’’ Chan told StarBizWeek.
Having a takaful business fits into the group’s aspirations as currently, it has takaful operations in Indonesia.
Chan said it would also be beneficial to the group as the takaful operations could be later expanded to the Philippines, Thailand and China, where Manulife Group had a significant presence.
On whether there are plans by its foreign shareholder, Manulife Financial Corp, to increase its stake in the company with the financial sector liberalisation, Chan said it had plans but, at the moment, there were no firm decisions by the board.
On its newly-formed unit Manulife Unit Trust Bhd, Chan said the company would launch three funds in September – a global resources fund, a China-related product and a fund that would invest solely in India.
He said the global resources fund would be the first to invest in precious metals and energy.
As for the China and India funds, Chan said these two economies were powerhouses of Asia and offered huge markets, and they experienced good growth despite the grim economic environment.
He also expects 300 of its total agency force of nearly 1,500 to sell unit trusts this year and about 50% to do so in 2010.
As for its new business premiums, Chan said Manulife expected a 5% growth this year from RM63mil achieved last year.
He said the company planned to unveil two life protection-based products by year-end.
--The Star Online