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Business Deals

Hong Kong's New World buys insurer FTLife for $2.7bn

Conglomerate diversifies with eye toward expanding into mainland China

A view of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge connecting Hong Kong to mainland China. New World Development sees opportunities to expand its insurance business to Guangdong Province across the water.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Property group New World Development will buy FTLife Insurance for 21.5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($2.74 billion), part of a diversification effort to ease its dependence on real estate.

New World Development's infrastructure unit NWS Holdings will purchase all shares in the midsize life insurer from a Chinese investment company. The deal -- the biggest acquisition of a Hong Kong insurer to date  -- will be funded with cash and bank loans.

"This transaction is a significant step toward our goal of building an immersive ecosystem of premium quality offerings to our customers and community," said Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, executive vice chairman and general manager of New World Development, in a statement on Dec. 27.

The Hong Kong developer sees potential for synergies by tapping FTLife's customer base.

New World Development has been building up its presence in health care. Earlier this year, the company invested in Tencent Holdings-backed online health services provider WeDoctor.

As income levels rise, mainland Chinese increasingly are buying life insurance. New World Development aims to expand insurance operations there in the future, betting that Hong Kong will deepen its economic links with cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

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