India approves up to 20% foreign investment in insurer LIC

This policy change will help ease the listing of the state-run company

India's largest insurer Life Insurance Corporation of India plans to float a stake of 5 per cent to raise about $8 billion next month. AFP
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India's Cabinet on Saturday approved a policy amendment allowing foreign direct investment of up to 20 per cent in Life Insurance Corporation of India, a government source said, a change aimed at easing the listing of the state-run insurer.

India's largest insurance company plans to float a stake of 5 per cent to raise about $8 billion next month for the south Asian nation's largest initial public offering by far.

The amendment would allow foreign direct investors to buy up to 20 per cent of LIC's shares through an automatic route, said the government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity after the Cabinet meeting.

Under current rules, foreign investment is not allowed in the LIC, governed by the special parliament act, while 74 per cent foreign direct investment is allowed in other private insurance companies.

The amendment would allow the government to raise the foreign direct investment limit in the LIC up to 20 per cent, on par with the rule for state-run banks, the government source said.

The Cabinet decision comes amid growing fears among some investors that the government could defer public listing of the LIC due to increasing volatility in the market after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Government officials, have however, said that there was no plan to defer the listing of the insurance company — critical for plans to raise funds for budgeted spending.

In the IPO, the company will also earmark a certain percentage of shares for policyholders, not exceeding 10 per cent of the offer size, while the portion reserved for employees will not be more than 5 per cent of post-offer equity share capital, according to the IPO filing.

LIC employed 114,498 people as of the end of March 2021.

LIC, which was formed six decades ago when India's insurance sector was nationalised, straddles the business in the country, with more than 280 million policies and more than 60 per cent of the insurance segment.

Updated: February 26, 2022, 10:38 AM