Aviva's joint-venture in China, Aviva-Cofco has received regulatory approval to open additional life insurance sales offices in the cities of Zhongshan in Guangdong province and Mianyang in Sichuan province, making Aviva the first foreign insurer to enter these markets.

The approvals closely follow the Chinese Insurance Regulation Committee’s (CIRC) announcement to end geographical restrictions on overseas insurers, allowing them to open additional sales offices in each city and also expand to all of China from 15 cities. With the new licenses, Aviva-Cofco will now operate out of five cities in China. It already has offices in the cities of Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

Zhongshan and Mianyang are major cities in the Guangdong and Sichuan provinces. Zhongshan is a key city in Guangdong province, with a population of 1.38 million. It ranks third in Guangdong in terms of personal insurance expenses. Mianyang is the second largest city in Sichuan province with a population of 5.22 million. Based on its GDP, it is the fifth largest city in West China.

Charles Anderson, regional managing director of Aviva Asia Pte, commented: Obtaining new licenses in Guangdong and Sichuan provinces is very important to our growth strategy where we want to get first-mover advantage in key growth regions of China. Guangdong is China’s most progressive insurance market, while Sichuan Province is cited as China’s fastest growing insurance market.

To date Aviva, the UK’s leading insurance company, has trailed behind rival Prudential, the UK’s number two insurance organization, in terms of its presence in China. However, with these additions Aviva will be just behind its main rival with five offices to its six. Prudential announced the addition of two new offices in the Guangdong province in mid-February.