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Initial public offerings are typically celebratory events. That wasn’t necessarily the case at Dai-ichi Life, a Japanese insurer, even though the company’s US$11bn listing this week was the largest IPO in Japan since NTT DoCoMo went public in 1998.

The move is designed to give the company—Japan’s second-ranked life insurer—the financial flexibility to expand, perhaps by making additional share offerings. Although it operates in Asia’s largest insurance market by far, prospects aren’t bright for life insurers in Japan. The company’s recent financial results make for dire reading and interest among foreign investors in the IPO was subdued.

Dai-ichi already has minority stakes in life insurers in fast-growing Vietnam, Thailand and India. If the company is serious about foreign expansion it needs to act fast, as many western insurers have been expanding their footprints in emerging Asia for some time. Recent deals in the region by America’s MetLife and Britain’s Prudential have also solidified their positions there.

Read more at Financial Services Briefing: “Listing southward” (March 24th)

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