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February 27, 2009

Thai KBANK to up stake in insurer
Thailand's fourth-largest lender Kasikornbank said on Thursday it would spend up to 7.24 billion baht ($202 million) to expand its life assurance business by taking a larger stake in a joint venture insurer.

The bank planned to raise its stake in Muang Thai Fortis Holdings to 51 percent from 10 percent by buying new shares and existing shares from shareholders, Reuters quoted a statement released by Kasikornbank as saying.

Muang Thai Fortis -- a joint venture between Thailand's Muang Thai Group and Belgian-Dutch financial group Fortis -- holds 75 percent of unlisted Muang Thai Life Assurance Co, Thailand's third largest life insurer.

Fortis holds the remaining 25 percent in Muang Thai Life.

The share deal, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter, was expected to boost the bank's 2009 profit above the 15.3 billion baht it earned in 2008, bank president Prasarn Trairatvorakul told reporters.

Muang Thai Life president Sara Lamsam told Reuters the plan was in line with Kasikornbank's strategy to provide a full-range of financial services ranging from securities, insurance and asset management.

Muang Thai group is controlled by the Lamsam family, which founded Kasikornbank.

The bank also said it might raise a planned bond issue to up to 170 billion baht ($4.74 billion), from a previous $3 billion offer. It also planned to pay an interim 2008 dividend of 1.50 baht per share.

On Thursday, Kasikornbank shares closed up 0.6 percent at 45.25 baht, while the overall Thai market was 0.53 percent lower. ($1=35.90 Baht

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