Japan Dai-ichi Life to buy insurer Protective Life for $5.7 billion, eager to expand globally

TOKYO – Japanese insurer Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. is acquiring Protective Life Corp. of the U.S. for $5.7 billion.

The deal, which will make the American company a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dai-ichi Life, underlines the ambitions of Japan’s insurance companies to expand abroad. The local market is shrinking as the Japanese population ages.

Dai-ichi said Wednesday that the acquisition will help realize its aspirations to become a global insurer. It said it was eager to do more business in the U.S., the world’s largest life insurance market, although specific plans for that expansion were still undecided.

Dai-ichi, Japan’s No. 2 life insurance company, already operates in Vietnam, Thailand, India, Indonesia and Australia in addition to Japan.

Protective Life, based in Birmingham, Alabama, is a medium-size insurer in the individual life and annuities business nationwide. It has a market share ranking of 36th in the U.S. as measured by group premium income.

Dai-ichi said it plans to change its management structure to ensure it keeps growing in the U.S.

The deal is subject to approval by Protective Life shareholders, in a vote set for August or September, and regulatory approval in both Japan and the U.S. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of this year or January 2015, according to Dai-ichi.