Aegon and Sony Life Insurance Co have unveiled plans to establish a life insurance company in Japan. The 50/50 joint venture will develop annuity products, initially focusing on variable annuity products, to be distributed through Sony Life's Lifeplanner channel, as well as through banks and other financial institutions.

Sony Life said that it regards this joint venture opportunity with Aegon as a means for strengthening its ‘life planning’ principle by broadening the range of its product offerings.

The partnership is expected to be operational in early 2008, subject to final agreement and regulatory licensing and approval. The joint venture company is expected to be headquartered in Tokyo, where it will begin operations with around 60 members of staff and be co-managed via two representative directors – one from each of its parent companies.

We are very excited by the prospect of combining our expertise and skills with the highly-respected brand and distribution strength of Sony Life, said Aegon chairman and CEO Donald Shepard. The Japanese market presents a significant opportunity for companies that are able to develop innovative products and services that can effectively respond to the developing need. Together we look forward to building a platform that will be the basis for ongoing collaboration in the years ahead.

The annuity market in Japan has been growing rapidly, driven by variable annuity products following the deregulation of sales through banks in 2002. Variable annuity assets totaled over JPY10 trillion ($85 billion) at the end of March 2006, according to figures quoted by Aegon, and sales were nearly JPY2 trillion ($17 billion) in the first half of fiscal year 2006. Furthermore, it is generally anticipated that demand for variable annuity products in Japan will continue to be strong.