AIA, Manulife among bidders for Aviva's Malaysia JV

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG: AIA Group , Manulife and Prudential PLC are among companies that have made initial bids for the life insurance joint venture of Malaysia's CIMB Group and Aviva in a deal estimated to be worth at least $400 million, sources said.

Other bidders for the venture include Europe's no. 2 insurer AXA, the sources, who had direct knowledge of the matter, said. The auction of the venture is being handled by Morgan Stanley and CIMB, Malaysia's second-biggest lender, they said.

Britain's second-biggest insurer Aviva is selling its 49 percent in the joint venture, while CIMB could sell a significant portion of its 51 percent stake, the sources said. The transaction could also result in a new bancassurance deal with CIMB, Malaysia's second-biggest bank, one of the sources said.

The initial bids are of a non-binding nature. "They will come back to the bidders in a week or so," said one of the sources.

The auction comes after Aviva laid out plans last month to exit non-core markets, a strategy aimed in part at raising money to protect against its euro zone exposure.

Aviva entered Malaysia in June 2007 in a joint venture with CIMB, paying 500 million ringgit ($164 million) for a 49 percent stake, according to CIMB's website.

CIMB, Aviva, Morgan Stanley, AIA, Prudential, AXA and Manulife declined to comment. The sources declined to be named because the details of the bidding process are not public. - Reuters

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