China’s Fosun said to be mulling takeover bid for $10b Belgian insurer Ageas

Vehicles drive past the Fosun International Ltd. headquarters building in Shanghai, China, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Fosun International Ltd. is considering an offer for all or parts of Belgian insurer Ageas in what could be the Chinese conglomerate’s boldest move to expand its international footprint, according to people familiar with the matter.

Fosun is talking to advisers about alternatives including teaming up with a partner to split the Belgian company or increasing its current stake, the people said, asking not to be named because the deliberations are private. No final decisions have been made and Fosun may decide against pursuing a deal, they said. Brussels-based Ageas has a market value of 8.9 billion euros ($10.4 billion), after shares rose 7.2 percent this year.

Ageas’s U.S.-traded shares climbed as much as 7.4 percent Tuesday.

A representative for Ageas declined to comment. Fosun didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The deliberations for Ageas may be yet another sign of China’s renewed appetite for expanding globally after a slowdown last year amid tighter curbs on capital outflows and increased scrutiny of foreign acquisitions. In May, China Three Gorges Corp., the country’s largest clean energy company, offered 9.1 billion euros to raise its stake in electricity giant EDP-Energias de Portugal SA.

Fosun already holds about 3 percent of Ageas, though Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. is the largest shareholder with a 5 percent stake, according to filings.

A potential deal could draw close scrutiny from regulators because Ageas is the biggest life insurance provider in Belgium and No. 2 non-life insurer, according to its website. In addition to operations across Europe, Ageas sells products in China, Malaysia, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam. The Belgian company is a minority partner in a life insurance joint venture with China Taiping Insurance Holdings Co.

Fosun has managed to continue its expansion amid a government crackdown on large, overseas deals, with Chinese companies such as HNA Group Co. and Anbang Insurance Group Co. shedding assets.

Fosun meanwhile has reached agreements to take over companies ranging from French fashion house Lanvin to Brazilian brokerage Guide Investimentos. One of the Chinese conglomerate’s best-known investments is Club Med SAS, which is part of a tourism and hotels portfolio that’s being spun off.