The headquarters of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission in Beijing. It said recently that insurers can put premiums generated from policies written before 1999 into isolated accounts and invest in blue chips. (Provided to China Daily)
On Friday,the top insurance regulator removed Yao Zhenhua, chairman of Foresea Life Insurance, from his position and banned him from the insurance industry for 10 years for irregular market operations, after speculative purchases of stakes in listed companies including real estate giant Vanke and leading appliance manufacturer Gree. Beijing News commented on Saturday:
The China Insurance Regulatory Commission said in a statement that Foresea Life violated insurance regulations and provided false information about its increase in capital.
In fact, Yao is not alone in encroaching on bricks-and-mortar businesses at the risk of disrupting the capital market. In 2015 alone, nine insurers built up their stakes in some 31 listed companies, and seven insurance investors did the same with 14 listed companies last year. Some of them, the Baoneng Group included, of which Foresea Life is an affiliate, are suspected of fueling speculation in the market at the expense of small investors and threatening the management of public companies.
For example, bypassing the restrictions capping the maximum investment in equities could cause unnecessary turbulence in the equity market, which might affect the operations of other insurers and banks.
The insurance regulator therefore decided to act to clean up the illegal practices and nip any financial risks in the bud. What the insurers should do is to offer more financing options to the enterprises struggling to attract investment, not make speculative investment in them.
The hefty sanctions on Yao should serve as a key step in drawing the boundaries over which private capital cannot cross.