The office would mark the insurer’s commitment to expand in China despite economic headwinds from stringent Covid restrictions. AIA became the first wholly owned foreign life insurer in the country after turning its Shanghai branch into a subsidiary in 2020, paving the way for growth

Insurance giant AIA Group Ltd. is in talks to purchase an office at a prime location in Shanghai as it expands business in China, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Hong Kong-based insurer is considering buying SIIC Center, a multi-function project under construction near Shanghai’s North Bund area, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public.

Shanghai Industrial Development Co., the state-owned developer that owns the tower, expects that the site could be valued at as much as 9 billion yuan ($1.3 billion), one of the people said.

AIA declined to comment. Shanghai Industrial Development didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The office would mark the insurer’s commitment to expand in China despite economic headwinds from stringent Covid restrictions. AIA became the first wholly owned foreign life insurer in the country after turning its Shanghai branch into a subsidiary in 2020, paving the way for growth.

AIA’s expansion in the mainland has mostly focused on broadening its distribution network. In January, it acquired a 25% stake in bank-affiliated life insurer China Post Life Insurance Co.

In March, it agreed to buy an insurer from Bank of East Asia. AIA plans to expand to two new Chinese regions a year, it said in June 2021.

The company’s China unit wants to set up an asset-management company to help find better investment opportunities and build a pension-fund operation. It’s looking to boost stock, private-equity and real estate holdings in China, AIA said last year.

Shanghai Industrial Development purchased a land parcel for SIIC Center for 3.3 billion yuan in 2015. It later raised more money by introducing Japanese developer Mori Building Co., which is known for its tower in Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills.

Shanghai is redeveloping the North Bund area into a new central business district.

Bloomberg