Insurance firms such as Singapore Life (Singlife) and Prudential are racing to buy a controlling stake in the life insurance unit of Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Astra International, a conglomerate listed in Jakarta, is also weighing options for a shareholding in BNI Life Insurance, the sources told the publication.

Discussions are at an initial stage and a formal process for the sale is yet to begin, the sources said, adding that other buyers could also express interest.

Government-backed BNI holds a 60% stake in the life unit up for sale, the remaining 40% is held by Japanese firm Sumitomo Life Insurance.

According to the sources, the Indonesian lender and Sumitomo Life Insurance are holding talks to carve out the structure of a potential sale.  

The publication’s earlier report said that the deal could value BNI Life Insurance at around $1bn.

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The life insurer’s owners could also form a bancassurance agreement as part of the deal, the sources have said.

Earlier this week, Singlife CEO Pearlyn Phau said in an interview that the insurer is looking to expand operations in the Southeast Asian markets of Indonesia and Vietnam.

Other than Sumitomo Life Insurance, Singlife is backed by TPG and UK insurance major Aviva.

Meanwhile, Astra is eyeing BNI Life as it weighs options for its own life insurance business BNI Life, a separate report said in September 2022.