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Insurance Merger Planned in Japan

January 24, 2002

TOKYO (AP) _ Two major Japanese insurers on Thursday said they have agreed to merge, forming the country’s third-largest life-insurance company.

The union between Meiji Life Insurance Co. and Yasuda Mutual Life Insurance Co. will be the first involving top-tier industry players, Yasuda said. Meiji is Japan’s No. 4 life insurer in terms of contracts held. Yasuda is the country’s sixth-largest. The new entity would be the third-largest.

Manami Hirata, a Meiji Life Insurance spokeswoman, said the companies’ boards met Thursday and approved the merger plan. The merger is set for April 2004.

Analysts welcomed the move.

``This is a good direction, as there are too many lifers in Japan,″ said Morgan Stanley foreign-exchange strategist Toru Umemoto.

The merger plan is also notable in that it would combine companies from separate business groupings, a sign that the nation’s once sacrosanct corporate alliances are unraveling amid the stubborn economic slump. Meiji Life is affiliated with the Mitsubishi group and Yasuda Mutual is part of the Mizuho Financial Group.

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