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ZhongAn benefits from the 'Ma effect'

Big-name backers give China's first online-only insurer instant appeal

Tencent’s Pony Ma Huateng, Ping An’s Peter Ma Mingzhe, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma Yun, standing from second left to second right, with ZhongAn Chairman Ou Yaping, far right, at a ceremony in Shanghai in 2013   © Imaginechina/AP

HONG KONG When the heads of three of China's most prominent companies join hands to launch a startup, investors notice.

Jack Ma Yun of Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings' Pony Ma Huateng, and Peter Ma Mingzhe of Ping An Insurance Group did just that when they founded ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance, China's first online-only insurer, four years ago. It was a company with an untested business model and one that had yet to make a single yuan from underwriting, but it sparked an investment frenzy.

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