Business strategic planning in China.Liberty Mutual Insurance, a longtime player in China, has formed a new joint venture there in a bid to become a major presence in a market dominated by local rivals.

The Boston-based insurer said it will partner with Sanpower Group Co. Ltd., a private Chinese conglomerate with businesses in the financial, health and retail industries and a focus on big data. Specifically, the deal is between Sanpower and Liberty Mutual’s existing China-based property/casualty insurance operations, and Liberty Mutual will hold a 49 percent minority interest. Sanpower will hold a 51 percent controlling interest, according to the deal announcement.

Once regulatory authorities including the China Insurance Regulatory Commission sign off on the deal, the joint venture will officially begin.

David Long, Liberty Mutual’s chairman and CEO, noted that China has the world’s second largest property/casualty market, with ongoing growth opportunities. Liberty Mutual’s deal with Sanpower can help take that to the next level, he said in prepared remarks.

“Sanpower’s understanding off, and access to, broader Chinese markets, particularly through their extensive retail network, will significantly enhance the competitiveness of our joint operations in a market that remains dominated by local players,” Long said.

Liberty Mutual first started doing business in China in 1996, and now has operations in six provinces. The insurer claims it is one of the largest foreign non-life companies doing business there.

Liberty Mutual is also focusing on expanding operations in India, another Asia emerging market giant. Recently, it boosted its ownership stake to 49 percent in a joint venture company called Liberty Videocon General Insurance Ltd., which launched in 2013. Liberty Videocon focuses on personal insurance products including motor, health, home and personal accident coverage.

Long has said that the market has room for major expansion, due to its large, relatively young population, a growing economy and a low level of insurance penetration.

Source: Liberty Mutual