GLOBAL - The Chinese insurer Ping An is set to buy half of Fortis' asset management business, which has ballooned since the integration of ABN Amro asset management.

Fortis and Ping An Insurance today jointly announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding "to form a global asset management partnership".

Ping An said it intends to acquire a 50% equity stake in Fortis Investments for a consideration of €2.15bn.

Fortis said last week it had been in exclusive talks over the deal to bolster its financial strength, but declined to name the party involved, as part of moves to shore up its balance sheet by €3.2bn.

According to the signed memorandum, Fortis Investments, currently with €245bn in assets under management, would be rebranded Fortis Ping An Investments, though the new operation will continue to be consolidated by Fortis.

Fortis and Ping An said in the announcement they will each nominate three non-executive directors and propose two independents for the new organisation's board, though the senior management of the company will remain unchanged and "will benefit from the Asian expertise of key Ping An executives".

Ping An acquired a 4.18% equity stake in Fortis last November, which it then raised to 4.99%.

"Since then, both firms have explored several areas of potential business cooperation, with asset management taking priority," said the two companies.

Jean-Paul Votron, chief executive of Fortis commented, "The creation of a global platform by combining Fortis Investments and the majority of the ABN Amro Asset Management Activities with Ping An is a unique opportunity to accelerate our growth plans for asset management, particularly within high growth markets such as China and elsewhere in Asia."

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