AIG to sell Japanese life insurance units

TOKYO (Reuters) - American International Group Inc, plans to sell its three Japanese life insurance businesses, an AIG spokesman said on Saturday, in sale Japanese media estimated could top $9.5 billion (5.4 billion pounds).

AIG, once the world’s largest insurer, said on Friday it will focus on its main insurance operations and put the rest of its businesses up for sale to repay up to $85 billion borrowed from the U.S. government.

As part of such efforts, AIG intends to sell shares in American Life Insurance Co (ALICO), AIG Star Life Insurance Co and AIG Edison Life Insurance Co, said Fumiyasu Sato, a Tokyo-based spokesman for AIG.

ALICO operates as a life insurer in more than 55 nations and regions including Japan, while AIG Star Life and AIG Edison Life are AIG life insurance units based in Japan.

Sato added that AIG has no intention of selling its nonlife insurance operations in Japan.

AIG received a U.S. federal bailout last month after losses in its financial products unit drove it to the brink of collapse.

Japanese business daily Nikkei said on Saturday the price for the sale could top 1 trillion yen ($9.5 billion) combined, and added that a number of major Japanese and overseas insurance companies may be interested in acquiring the businesses being put on sale.

Because of the size of the businesses, domestic life insurers may form an alliance to make the purchase, Nikkei said.

“It would be hard for a single domestic insurer to make the acquisition by itself,” Nikkei quoted a senior official at a major life insurance company as saying.

Japan’s largest private life insurer Nippon Life Insurance has shown an interest in purchasing AIG’s life insurance businesses in Japan, as has Tokio Marine Holdings Inc, Nikkei said.

Britain’s Prudential Plc and Germany’s Allianz, Europe’s biggest insurer, are also among the insurers that have been mentioned as possible suitors, the newspaper said.

Tokyo-based AIG spokesman Sato said he had no information about potential buyers. “We know absolutely nothing regarding that,” Sato said, when asked about the Nikkei report.

($1=105.30 Yen)

Reporting by Masayuki Kitano; additional reporting by New York Equities Desk; Editing by Lincoln Feast