METLIFE SHOWS ITS CONFIDENCE IN KOREA BY PLANNING $27 MILLION INVESTMENT

METLIFE SHOWS ITS CONFIDENCE IN KOREA BY PLANNING $27 MILLION INVESTMENT

Having bought out its local partner, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. intends to boost investment in South Korea, trusting the economic recovery will spur business.

New York-based MetLife plans to inject an additional 40 billion won ($27 million) over the next two years, said executive Vice President John H. Tweedie.MetLife, which ranked first among U.S. insurers last year in net premiums, purchased the 49 percent stake of Kolon-Met Life Insurance Co. held by Kolon group for 23 billion won.

The former Kolon-Met Life, formed in 1989, will be renamed Metlife Saeng Myoung. It offers individual life, retirement savings and health insurance cover, as well as group life policies.

''In line with our globalization policy in the life and retirement savings business, the transfer represents a good opportunity to reinforce our marketing base in the Korean market,'' Mr. Tweedie said.

Analysts estimate that pension products alone are expected to create at least 10 trillion won in premium revenues over the next decade.

Mr. Tweedie said the future of the Korean life market depends on the country's ability to overcome economic and financial difficulties.

''In the near future, when Korea puts its economy back on track, the domestic life insurance industry will enjoy a resurgence,'' he said, though acknowledged that expansion will be slower than in the past.

Mr. Tweedie forecast an alteration in the industry in tandem with the country's economic restructuring. Among new core products he foresees are middle and long-term policies increasingly sold through professional distribution outlets.

Local insurance companies had assets of 105 trillion won as of last July. That total from 33 life and 14 nonlife firms was up 21.8 percent from a year earlier. Samsung Life Insurance Co. topped the list with assets of 31.21 trillion won, followed by Kyobo Life Insurance Co. (18.32 trillion) and Korea Life (12.75 trillion).

Samsung Fire & Marine led the nonlife sector with assets of 4.25 trillion won, followed by Hyundai Marine & Fire (2.11 trillion) and LG Fire & Marine (1.95 trillion).