CITIC Prudential has been awarded a life insurance license for Wuhan, in Hubei province in Central China. Prudential becomes the first foreign life insurer with a license for Wuhan, which strengthens its position as the leading European insurer in China.

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province and is an economic and cultural centre for Central China. With a population of 7.68 million people, Wuhan’s GDP in 2004 was GBP12.9 billion, an increase of 14.5% on 2003. Wuhan represents CITIC Prudential’s first foray into Central China and will be used as a base for expansion within Hubei province.

Mark Norbom, chief executive of Prudential Corporation Asia, said, Just as Prudential was the first British insurer to enter the Chinese life insurance market in 2000, we are the first foreign life insurance company with a license for the economically important city of Wuhan. This move into Wuhan in Central China further demonstrates the strength of our commitment to building a material life insurance business in China with our partner CITIC.

The award, which closely follows two other similar awards in mid-February, means that Prudential now has licenses to operate its life insurance business in seven Chinese cities, more than any other European insurance company.

The news comes just the day after main UK rival Aviva announced that it was closing the gap to Prudential with the designation of two licenses in China, taking its total to five.