KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ U.S. insurance giant Aetna said Friday it hoped to expand into Malaysia's health insurance market, a news report said.

``Aetna is optimistic with Malaysia and we plan to remain bullish here,'' said Michael Stephens, the chairman of Aetna International Inc., which already offers certain insurance services in the Southeast Asian country.

``We would like to expand into other areas if the Malaysian government allows us,'' Stephens was quoted as saying by the state news agency, Bernama, after meeting with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Stephens said he felt Malaysia's recession-hit economy was showing signs of recovery that made it a good time to invest.

Aetna is one of seven companies that has contributed $200,000 to Malaysia to help it host the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

``With good leadership and the economic getting stronger, things are definitely getting better now,'' Stephens said.