On July 7 AEGON and Religare announced that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly enter the insurance and asset management markets in India.

AEGON is one of the worldÆs largest life insurance and pension companies and a provider of investment products. The Indian market has been on AEGON's radar screen since 1997 when it set up a liaison office in Delhi. At the time market regulations were not conducive to AEGONÆs plans and the liaison office did not grow into anything further. Then, in 2004, AEGON announced it had appointed Vimal Bhandari as Country Manager based in Mumbai. Bhandari had served at ILFS and was an executive director at ILFS when he joined AEGON. He was hired to help AEGON develop a strategy for IndiaÆs insurance and savings markets. Since Bhandari joined the Indian markets have been abuzz with news that AEGON is in discussions with potential joint venture partners.

AEGON says of the recent deal: ôEntering the Indian market continues AegonÆs strategy of expanding into countries that offer long-term growth opportunities for insurance and investment products.ö

Its three principal markets are the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and it is also has a significant presence in Canada, China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Taiwan.

Religare, is backed by the promoters of leading Indian pharmaceutical major, Ranbaxy Laboratories, in their individual capacities and provides financial services across India through more than 150 offices. It provides equity and commodity trading, investment banking, distribution of mutual funds, personal loans and other asset based products as well as managing equity assets. Ranbaxy has diversified interests in healthcare, pathological laboratories and financial services.

AEGON and Religare intend to create a platform to market insurance and asset management products across India. Taking the joint venture route is in consonance with the strategy AEGON has adopted in China where in 2003 AEGON established AEGON-CNOOC Life Insurance Company, a 50:50 JV with the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). AEGON-CNOOC provides insurance and savings products.