Manulife seeks reestablishment in Hong Kong

Insurer currently domiciled in Bermuda alongside 11 others

Manulife seeks reestablishment in Hong Kong

Insurance News

By Kenneth Araullo

Canada-based insurer Manulife is seeking to redomicile its Hong Kong unit back from Bermuda, as CEO Patrick Graham expressed grand plans for expansion in the Greater Bay Area.

The insurer, alongside 11 other large firms such as AIA, AXA, and HSBC Life, are currently incorporated in Bermuda because of an estate duty that the government of Hong Kong levied at the time they were set up, which has been ultimately scrapped. Manulife has roots in the special region for over 12 decades and is Hong Kong’s second-largest life insurer overall.

Behind the scenes, the insurer has been working with other firms and the Hong Kong government to allow estate duty-affected insurers to come back to the city. In an interview with the SCMP, Graham said that Manulife has been a driver behind this agenda.

“It is a quirk of history that we all started in Bermuda. But the good news is, the government [of Hong Kong] and the industry are all lined up to make it happen, to create a pathway for us to redomicile here,” Graham said.

The insurers’ road back to HK

The HK government is currently exploring views until May on the topic of allowing overseas firms to change their place of incorporation to Hong Kong without going through court approval beforehand. The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers (HKFI) announced its full support and has expressed its hopes that insurers will be among the first to benefit from these developments.

“We started in March 2023 a two-month public consultation and have been engaging major stakeholders, including the insurance sector, business chambers, professional bodies and relevant advisory bodies. We have in parallel started formulating the detailed legislative proposal, taking into account the views collected and mapping out other preparatory work for the implementation of the regime,” a Financial Services and Treasury Bureau spokeswoman said.

Despite these grand schemes for the GBA, Graham said that Manulife will continue to do business in Bermuda, although the insurer wants to have its HK and Macau businesses redomiciled to show its commitment to the region.

“The Greater Bay Area makes up around 6% of China’s population, but 11% of the country’s GDP. Outside Hong Kong, the insurance penetration is close to 6% in this region, which is less than one third of the penetration in Hong Kong. It is just such a phenomenal opportunity,” Graham said.

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