AUSTRALIA

Australian financial services firm IOOF, which includes superannuation and investment management businesses, completed its purchase of ANZ’s aligned dealer groups on October 1. The groups, which include Financial Services Partners, Millenium3, RI Advice, and Elders Financial Planning, joined IOOF as part of an agreement last October to purchase ANZ’s wealth management services. The full completion of the agreement is expected to be completed by March 2019, with the acquisition of ANZ’s One Path Pensions and Investments business.

Source: IOOF

Freedom Insurance Group chief executive Keith Cohen resigned on October 2 after the Australian insurer announced it would immediately suspend its direct insurance business, while chief financial officer Jenny Andrews also intends to leave the insurer. This was in response to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (Asic) proposed regulatory changes to restrict outbound sales of life and funeral insurance, announced on August 30. Craig Orton, chief operating officer, has been appointed chief executive to replace Cohen.

Freedom was also questioned at the Royal Commission for its aggressive direct insurance sales practices in September, prompting them to put an end to its outbound sales of accidental death, accidental injury, term life, and trauma insurance policies, representing approximately 13% of Freedom’s sales in fiscal year 2018. Due to the restructuring of the insurer’s business, the company will reduce staff numbers from about 200 to 90.

Source: Freedom Insurance, Sydney Morning Herald, Asic

HONG KONG

Metlife’s plan to sell its Hong Kong business to CreditEase has fallen through as the latter failed to make the payment on time.

CreditEase, a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform and wealth manager, was reported to have agreed to pay as much as $600 million to buy Metlife’s Hong Kong business and the deal was close to completion. The acquisition amount is 1.5 times Metlife Hong Kong's embedded value of $400 million, lower than the three times valuation seen in the sale of Dah Sing Financial's life insurance unit to Tahoe Investment last year. CreditEase was unable to make the scheduled payment amid a shakeout in the P2P lending industry in China.

Source: Ming Pao

INDIA

The finance ministry has held a two-day meeting with the heads of state-owned insurance companies to discuss ways to improve their financial positions, introduce more innovative products and improve insurance penetration in the country, according to a media report.

The two-day discussions were held on October 5 and 6. 

Source: The Times of India

KOREA

National Pension Service of Korea has reportedly chosen a new chief investment officer (CIO), 14 months after its last permanent appointment to the role resigned. Ahn Hyo-jun has been hired from his former role as the president of financial holding company BNK Holdings to become the state fund's new head of investments, according to Yonhap Agency.

NPS has been without a CIO since Kang Myoung-wook resigned in July 2017. 

Source: Yonhap News Agency, Today Online

Two Korean pension funds became the first in South Korea to say they will stop investing into coal finance. Korea Teachers Pension and Government Employees Pension Scheme (Geps) both announced that they would not finance any new coal-fired plants, amid signs the country's asset owners are beginning to consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns. 

The two funds have never helped to finance coal power plants to date, but environmental activists said their commitment to never do so could act as an incentive for other asset owners in the country to follow suit. The National Pension Service, Korea's largest pension fund and the world's third-largest, is among the biggest financers of coal plants in the country. The country is a big financer of coal projects, but it has come under increasing pressure from environmental groups to stop this, over concerns that the dust created from coal plants contributed to 800,000 deaths a year. 

Source: Korea Herald

MALAYSIA

Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) (Kwap) may consider investing in the Malaysia Vision Valley (MVV) project but not as a member of a consortium that is spearheading the 379,000-acre development.

Chief executive officer Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad said its involvement in the large-scale project could only be on a project by project basis.

The MVV project aims to create a world-class metropolis; when completed, it is expected to have five clusters – the central business district, Nature City, Edu-tech Valley, Tourism and Wellness and New Liveable Township.

Source: New Straits Times

SINGAPORE

Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC is set to purchase a stake in local conglomerate Masan Group Corp, people with knowledge of the matter said, according to a media report.

The state investment firm bought roughly half of KKR & Co's 4.7% stake in Masan, according to these sources, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. It purchased the stock as part of an overnight placement by KKR, which offloaded its entire holding in a $209 million deal, the people said.

An investment in Masan will add to GIC purchases in Vietnam's airlines, banking and real estate industries.

Source: The Business Times

A London-based investment specialist with GIC has left the Singapore sovereign wealth fund to join a French boutique, a media report said.

La Financière de l’Echiquier said it is hiring Frédéric Buzaré , who was senior vice president for European equities according to his LinkedIn profile.

Buzaré will work alongside LFDE founder Didier le Menestrel and co-manage Echiquier Agressor, a flagship contrarian-based European equities fund, the report said.

Source: finews.asia