Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Manulife returns to Myanmar after 70-year hiatus

TORONTO — Manulife Financial Corp., Canada's largest life insurer, is entering Myanmar for the first time since the outbreak of the Second World War, as it targets the region's expanding middle class.

The company, which already operates in 11 Asian markets including Thailand and Shanghai, opened a representative office in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. The firm plans to sell life insurance products to the country of 65 million people.

Manulife entered Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in 1903 and left the country in 1942, a casualty of the war.

"We're convinced Myanmar is on the threshold of a great opportunity," Indren Naidoo, Manulife's executive for the region that includes Myanmar, said in an email. "Myanmar has a real opportunity here in terms of catching up with the kind of growth and development we've seen in other parts of this region."

Manulife joins international life insurers, including MetLife Inc., in a country where the government's structural reform program has propelled growth. The country's middle-income earners are set to double by 2020, according to the Boston Consulting Group, leaving more disposable income for residents to buy insurance products.

The country is forecast to reach one of the highest growth rates in Asia, with a GDP gain of 7.8 per cent this year and next, according to the Asian Development Bank. China's growth rate is expected to slow to 7.3 per cent this year, according to an average of economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg News.

Myanmar's government has been shaping a more investment-friendly country by unifying the exchange rate, creating autonomy for the central bank, reforming tax policy, pumping funds into social and physical infrastructure, and developing the financial sector after five decades of isolation and military rule.

Manulife, which manages $635 billion, is awaiting an operational licence from the local government to begin selling products. If granted, Manulife would be the first foreign life insurer with the designation.

Manulife is headquartered in Toronto, but runs its Canadian operations out of its office in Waterloo. The company employs about 3,800 people in offices in Waterloo and Kitchener.

source: The Record
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