AIG gets alternative proposal for Taiwan unit

By Faith Hung

TAIPEI (BestGrowthStock) – American International Group’s (AIG.N: ) protracted sale of its Taiwan unit took another twist on Tuesday when a local firm proposed jointly running the unit with the bailed-out insurer instead of a sale that AIG has been pushing for.

AIG has been trying to sell the unit, Nan Shan Life, since October 2009 as it looks to pay back the U.S. government for its bailout. It drew four bidders in a first round in December, with reports putting the offers at up to as high as $3 billion.

But on Tuesday home security firm Taiwan Secom Group (9917.TW: ) said it has proposed jointly running Nan Shan with the U.S. insurer and listing the unit in Taiwan.

Taiwan Secom, partly owned by Japan’s Secom (9735.T: ) and an affiliate of cement firm Goldsun (2504.TW: ), is setting up a holding company with Hong Kong investment firm Primus Financial to acquire a stake in Nan Shan, said Max Chu, a director of Taiwan Secom.

“We are being serious. We are not just looking around,” he said, adding Taiwan Secom did not participate in the first round of bidding that AIG held last month.

Chu declined to say how much Taiwan Secom would spend to acquire part of Nan Shan, or the size of any stake.

AIG’s first attempt to sell Nan Shan last year was blocked by Taiwan regulators and it has subsequently said it wants to sell the unit for about the same amount as the $2.15 billion it was offered last year.

In December it drew bids from Taiwanese banks Cathay Financial (2882.TW: ), Chinatrust (2891.TW: ) and Fubon (2881.TW: ), but conglomerate Ruentex Group emerged as the front runner in the bidding.

It is unclear whether AIG would accept Taiwan Secom’s proposal. Taiwan regulators have previously suggested a Taiwan listing but AIG has said it wants a sale.

Regulators have left it up to AIG to decide on what it wants to do with Nan Shan and are waiting for AIG to come up with a preferred bidder.

The regulator has set five conditions for any buyer.

Those are that any buyer needs to show fund-raising ability for future operations, a long-term commitment to run Nan Shan and experience in running an insurance business, and must promise to take care of employees and policy holders and must have funding sources that meet Taiwan regulations.

A first deal to sell the unit to Primus and Hong Kong listed China Strategic (0235.HK: ) was rejected after regulators said it did not meet all those conditions.

“AIG is the only one that’s making rules of the game,” said an official of one of the four Taiwanese companies that had submitted bids. “They still have not told us what is coming up next.”

Nan Shan is Taiwan’s No.3 insurer by market share after the insurance arms of Cathay and Fubon and has assets of T$1.7 trillion ($56.5 billion). It lost T$12.7 billion in the second quarter or this year and T$12.5 billion in the third.

At around 0335 GMT, shares of Taiwan Secom slipped 0.2 percent and Goldsun (2504.TW: ) was off 0.3 percent, while the broader market (.TWII: ) was flat.

($1=T$29.1)

AIG gets alternative proposal for Taiwan unit