Berkshire Hathaway enters India insurance market

By ERIKA KINETZ
Associated Press
March 3, 2011


MUMBAI, India (AP) -- Billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is entering the Indian insurance market as a corporate agent for Bajaj Allianz, the companies said.

Berkshire made no investment in Bajaj, but will sell policies for Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, beginning with auto insurance, Bajaj spokesman Santosh Balan said Thursday.

Insurance for India's fast-growing auto market accounts for over 50 percent of Bajaj Allianz's premium income, which amounted to 20.9 billion rupees ($465 million) from April through December, Balan said.

Berkshire's new India unit, Berkshire India, will focus on direct sales via internet and telemarketing and get commissions per regulatory norms. It may move into other lines of insurance as well.

"We have been watching the Indian insurance industry for a long time and are very excited about the immense opportunity," Berkshire India director Kara Raiguel said in a Wednesday statement.

Foreign companies have been eager to break into India's booming insurance market but have been stymied by strict ownership limits. India's Finance Minister this week pledged to introduce long-delayed legislation that would increase the foreign ownership cap in insurance.

Bajaj Allianz General Insurance is a joint venture between Bajaj Finserv and Germany's Allianz SE. Berkshire Hathaway, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska includes insurance subsidiaries GEICO and National Indemnity.

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