Singaporean-owned Great Eastern Life Assurance is exempted from Malaysia’s limits on foreign ownership of an insurer, according to Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Great Eastern was granted the exemption because it pledged to contribute a minimum of MYR2 billion (US$488.44 million) for the government’s B40 health insurance scheme, which seeks to provide cover for the bottom 40% of the population, Edge Markets reported.
Lim added that other foreign-owned insurers can also contribute to the B40 scheme to gain exemption from the ownership cap. According to the Minister, he believes that forcing insurers to sell up to 30% of their shares to Malaysian entities will only benefit a few people, mostly wealthy investors.
“We prefer that ordinary people benefit; we are talking about millions and millions of ringgit,” he said. “Either way, it goes to Malaysians but this way the B40 will get the benefit.”
The Malaysian government’s stance towards enforcing the foreign ownership cap has significantly changed following the general elections in 2018, which resulted in the first regime change in Malaysia since it gained independence in 1957.
Unlike the previous government’s imposition of a hard deadline for insurers to comply, the current government has shown it is open to negotiating individually with insurers and working out suitable timeframes.