New Delhi: Indian insurance sector may see the entry of a new foreign player, as Canada's largest insurer Manulife Financial is actively studying this market to find a workable business model to set up shop here.
A host of global insurance giants, including Allianz, Prudential, Standard Life, Aviva, Aegon and Nippon Life, are already present in the Indian insurance market through joint ventures with their respective Indian partners.
Now, Manulife has begun contemplating a foray into the Indian insurance market, industry sources said, while adding that the Canadian insurer is closely studying various rules and regulations for the sector including those for the foreign ownership restrictions.
When contacted, a senior Manulife executive confirmed the company's interest in India.
"We can confirm that we have a representative office in India. We have not pursued India (so far) because of ownership restrictions and, more recently, regulatory changes around product.
"But we maintain an active research brief and if we can find a business model that we think will work, we’d be prepared to enter India," Manulife Financial Asia's AVP (Brand Development and Communications) Fiona SF Chan said in an emailed response to queries from PTI.
The rules currently cap foreign stake in Indian insurers at 26 percent, but the proposals are underway to hike this limit to 49 percent.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram has expressed confidence that amendments to the Insurance Bill may be introduced by the government soon. The Bill seeks to raise foreign investment cap in the sector from 26 percent to 49 percent, which is a much-awaited move in the capital-intensive industry.
The country's insurance industry has been witnessing tough times of late. The competition has also intensified with two dozens new and old players vying for a market whose growth outlook has been dampened by various regulatory changes that forced companies to re-look at their business models.
Manulife Financial is a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. At the end of 2012, funds under management of Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were USD 535 billion (over Rs 28 lakh crore).
The company operates as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia and primarily as John Hancock in the United States.
According to Life Insurance Council data, the life insurance sector saw over Rs 33,633 crore of deployed capital, controlled more than Rs 16.18 lakh crore managed assets with 34 crore policies in force as of March 31, 2012.