American International Group Inc., the fast-growing insurance and financial services company, is likely to buy Japan's Nippon Credit Bank if the price is right, analysts said Tuesday.
Ernest T. Patrikis, AIG senior vice president and general counsel, would not confirm the deal at a meeting Tuesday of the Institute of International Bankers in New York.
But the Japanese press has reported that such a deal is in the works, and analysts in the United States said a deal would be in line with AIG's strategy for opportunistic purchases.
Nippon Credit, a $115 billion-asset bank, was taken over by Japanese regulators at the end of last year after huge loan losses.
According to the reports in Japanese media, AIG has offered to invest $750 million to $1 billion to recapitalize the bank, provided the Japanese government agrees to put in around $380 million.
"AIG has a long history of being opportunistic in distressed situations," said Kenneth S. Zuckerberg, who analyzes AIG for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "They also have a lot of experience in Asia and a lot of clout in that region."
Japan's Financial Reconstruction Commission, which manages banks in receivership, is hoping to sell Nippon Credit following last month's decision to sell Long-Term Credit Bank to U.S.-based Ripplewood Holdings for $1.1 billion.
AIG, which started its operations in China at the turn of the century, has been steadily diversifying out of insurance into faster-growing businesses such as leasing, commercial finance, and credit cards.
Much of the expansion has occurred outside the United States, which last year provided 52% of the group's total revenues of nearly $30 billion. In the banking and commercial finance field, AIG has acquired numerous companies overseas, including Bank Podlaski in Poland in 1998, a majority in Brazil's Banco Fenicia SA, and SPC Credit Ltd. in Hong Kong. Though insurance still accounts for around 85% of revenues, income from financial services has been growing faster.
Analysts noted that AIG's diversification into banking and other financial services is logical, given slow growth in the insurance sector.
They added that the company is also rapidly becoming a prototype for the convergence that is occurring between banking and insurance, leading to the creation of large global financial conglomerates.
"They're well ahead of the insurance pack and one of the few insurance-based financial services companies that will thrive in the financial marketplace of the next century," said Cathy Seifert, an analyst with S&P Equity Group in New York.
"The market is rapidly polarizing into the haves and the have-nots, and they are definitely a company that is leveraging off its existing strengths to get into faster-growing areas."