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Reliance Cap Eyes Gen Insurance Stake Sale In 6 Mths

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Indian financial services firm Reliance Capital is in talks with potential partners to sell up to 26 per cent in its general insurance business though a deal may be at least six months away, its chief executive told reporters late on Sunday.

Media reports have named Travelers Companies and Samsung Fire and Marine as potential buyers of the stake but Sam Ghosh declined to identify the parties with which the company was negotiating.

"We're in talks with a couple of players, it may take us at least six months," he said.

Reliance Capital, controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani, manages assets of over $19 billion across mutual funds, pension funds, managed accounts and hedge funds.

Its other businesses include insurance, broking, consumer and commercial finance.

Ghosh said that the company was aiming to close a deal to sell a 26-percent stake in its asset management business to Japan's Nippon Life Insurance by March 31 next year.

"We're in the process of due diligence for 26 percent, and fingers crossed, we will close by the end of Indian financial year on March 31," he said.

"We will manage some of Nippon Life's money in India, and in Japan they will help promote our products," he said.

Nippon Life has already acquired a 26-percent stake in Reliance Life Insurance for $680 million, valuing the business at $2.6 billion.

Ghosh said that Reliance targeted a near-doubling of its assets under management and advisory business in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region to $1 billion in the next two years.

Its assets under management in the region are $80 million, up from $40 million a year ago, and its advisory mandates currently amount to about $500 million, its business head for the region R.M. Sriram said.

A key part of the company's business based in Dubai is to advise medium-to-large Indian companies approaching international markets or seeking international partners.

Reliance plans to pursue a banking licence in India, and Ghosh said that though the government's draft guidelines stipulated an investment of 5 billion rupees, he felt that Reliance would have to plough in 15 billion rupees over a two-year period to build a pan-Indian bank.

He said Reliance was open to acquisitions in the banking space.

"The guidelines don't talk about acquiring, but we may have to explore it if we're allowed to," he said, adding that Reliance also wanted a strategic investor for the bank but the guidelines stipulated a 5-percent stake limit for a partner.