Dow Jones

ZURICH - Growth in Asian life insurance markets, with the exception of Japan, should expand at an 8.9% annual rate in the next five years, a study published Tuesday by Swiss Reinsurance Co. forecasts.

The study concluded that the $600 billion life insurance market will be one of the fastest-growing in the world as the region bounces back from the late-'90s financial crisis. The combination of banking and insurance products is also catching on in Asia, the study said. This has created new distribution channels and let life insurance companies to improve their marketing to wealthy people.

Swiss Re cited deregulation as an important contributor to the region's growth prospects. It pointed to China and India, which are gradually moving toward globalized markets, as especially important potential growth markets.

The company said that another effect of eliminating regulatory obstacles would be to raise the profile of bancassurance, notably in China and India, where banks have broad distribution reach.

The study said that Asia's non-life insurance market should grow 7.9% a year, excluding Japan. Asia's life insurance market growth, excluding Japan, was 7.2% in 1999, and the non-life insurance market grew at an annual rate of 1.2%, the study said.

Swiss Re's survey said Japan's life insurance and non-life insurance growth would remain low. Japan is expected to lag, with annual growth of 2.3% in life business and 1.9% in non-life.

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