Ashurst joins local firms on Aviva’s sale of Malaysian joint venture

Ashurst and a group of Malaysian firms have advised on the RM1.8bn (£373m) sale of Aviva’s Malaysian joint venture CIMB-Aviva to Sun Life Financial and Khazanah.

Canada’s Sun Life and Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah have agreed to buy 98 per cent of CIMB Aviva Assurance Berhad and CIMB Aviva Takaful Berhad, which together make up CIMB-Aviva. Sun Life and Khazanah will each acquire 49 per cent of the joint venture from London-based Aviva and CIMB Group, while CIMB will retain a 2 per cent share.

Ashurst, fielding Singapore-based corporate partner Keith McGuire and senior associate Toby Mander-Jones, acted for UK insurer Aviva. The firm worked together with local firm Chooi & Company, which acted as Malaysian counsel to Aviva.

CIMB, one of Malaysia’s leading financial groups and parent of CIMB Bank, was advised by partner Andre Gan of Wong & Partners, the Malaysian member firm of Baker & McKenzie.

Malaysian firm Skrine advised Sun Life on local law. The company’s in-house legal team, led by Asia general counsel Catherine Low, played a lead role in the negotiations.

Khazanah instructed local firm Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill, with corporate finance partner Tay Weng Hwee leading the firm’s team. Malaysia-based Lee Hishamuddin Allen & Gledhill is independent of Singapore’s Allen & Gledhill.

Sun Life Financial Asia president Kevin Strain said the transaction was aligned with the company’s strategy to expand its footprint in Asia. The Canadian insurer established a joint venture in Indonesia with CIMB in 2009.

Background to this deal:

Aviva’s sale of its Malaysian joint venture is part of the company’s broad disposal plan to raise £2.5bn from a series of deals globally, including the the most recent sale of its remaining stake in Amsterdam-listed Delta Lloyd, in which Slaughter and May led for Aviva (21 January 2013).

Aviva has regularly turned to Ashurst for advice on Asian transactions. For example, it instructed Ashurst’s McGuire when it exited its joint venture in Sri Lanka in September 2012.

The deal is also the latest in a series of insurance deals in South East Asia. One of the notable recent deals was AIA’s $1.7bn acquisition of the Malaysian insurance business of ING in October 2012. Debevoise & Plimpton and Wong & Partners advised AIA, while Allen & Overy teamed up with Skrine to advise ING (11 October 2012).