NEGOTIATIONS on a merger between GEL Capital (M) Bhd and PacificMas Bhd, which will provide a backdoor listing for the Malaysian operations of Great Eastern Holdings Ltd have started, according to Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia) Bhd director and chief executive officer Alex Foong.
Foong told reporters after signing a memorandum of understanding and collaboration with Dong Jiao Zong (United Chinese School Com-mittees Association of Malaysia) in Kuala Lumpur to offer the new Great Eastern Supremacy Regional Scho-larship scheme to students to pursue their tertiary education in approved universities in China that it was, however, too early to discuss the details.
In a late February filing with the KLSE, PacificMas said the proposed merger with GEL Capital would result in the injection of two Great Eastern Holdings wholly-owned units Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia) and its general insurance arm Overseas Assurance Corp (M) Bhd into PacificMas, which would subsequently result in Great Eastern Holdings owning a 51% stake in the company.
Foong said the groups Malaysian insurance business was expected to grow by 20% this year in line with the double-digit growth forecast for the industry.
On the scholarship scheme, Foong said: We want to nurture a base of young graduates to build up our management team for our expansion plans into China.,
He added that Singapore-based Great Life Holdings Ltd would spearhead business development in China and had already set up a representative office in Shanghai since three years ago.
China spells huge potential, but given the fact that the insurance industry is highly regulated in most countries, negotiations for the right partner and obtaining a licence would take a while, he said.
Under the Great Eastern supremacy regional scholarship scheme, Great Eastern will subsidise two or three eligible students who are pursuing or intending to pursue their tertiary education in economics or related fields of study at one of the seven China universities. They are University of Beijing, University of Qing Hua, University of Xi Jiang, University of Nan Jing, University of Fu Dan, University of Transportation Shang Hai and University of Transportation Xi An.
Each scholar will be awarded RM30,000 per annum for the duration of his or her study. The scheme is a new addition to the group's existing Great Eastern supremacy local and overseas scholarships established in May 1998.
As at December 2002, Great Eastern has awarded 25 local scholarships and three overseas scholarships worth close to RM1mil.