MetLife to raise stake in Indian life insurance JV

Pedro Gonçalves
MetLife to raise stake in Indian life insurance JV

American insurance major MetLife is looking to raise its stake in the Indian life insurance business it runs through a joint venture with state-owned lender Punjab National Bank.

A source familiar with the negotiations told local news outlet The Economic Times that, "MetLife is now looking to buy stake in the Indian life insurance company."

"The leadership change at the global level, with Kishore Ponnavolu moving to head Asia region and Michel Khalaf as head MetLife Worldwide, has triggered changes in (the firm's approach towards) the Indian market," the publication further quoted the source as saying.

The latest move follows the failed attempt by the partners to divest some stakes in PNB MetLife India through Initial public offering (IPO), for which they secured SEBI's nod in November last year.

"In the DRHP (draft red herring prospectus), they (PNB) have chosen only to dilute a small percentage, they want to hold the substantial holding at more than 26 percent. So, therefore that signals you their intention," the company's managing director and chief executive Ashish Srivastava said in a press conference.

 PNB MetLife is a JV between Punjab National Bank (PNB) that owns 30% stake, MetLife (26%), Elpro International (21%), M Pallonji & Company (18%), and Jammu & Kashmir Bank (5%), according to official numbers. Srivastava however said Metlife's take is currently at 32%.

In August last year, PNB MetLife filed for an IPO and planned to list the company in January this year. However, the plan could not take shape due to market conditions.

Now, the JV is planning to launch the IPO later this year, once the market stabilises, the sources told the publication.

In 2016, MetLife planned to quit the JV following the amendment in the Insurance Act as the act  required management control and ownership of insurance JV to be with Indian promoters only.