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Money Management

Manulife, Agricultural Bank of China to explore pension opportunities

Canadian firm looks to tap giant mainland bank's distribution network

Manulife Financial Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding with Agricultural Bank of China to study the potential for a strategic partnership in China's retirement market.

A news release from the Toronto-based firm said working with the heavyweight mainland bank will further Manulife's strategy of providing retirement solutions to the three pillars of China's pension system: big state funds, corporate enterprise annuities and individual retirement accounts.

The two companies will begin by exploring possibilities to use Agricultural Bank of China's network on the mainland to distribute financial strategies offered by two of the Canadian firm's joint ventures there: Manulife TEDA Fund Management Co. and Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance, the news release said.

Calvin Chiu, head of pensions development, Manulife Asia, said in the release that Agricultural Bank of China's customer base is 474 million people.

Manulife executives did not respond to emailed questions regarding whether the discussions included the possibility of the two firms acquiring stakes in each other.

One industry veteran, who declined to be named, described the memorandum of understanding as "more of an expression of intent," with the ultimate goal of forming a pension company together, if and when Agricultural Bank of China wins the nod from regulators.