Hong Kong/Kuala Lumpur — Hong Kong-based insurer FWD Group has agreed to buy HSBC Holdings’ stake in a Malaysian insurance joint venture as part of a plan to expand its presence in Asia, three people familiar with the matter said. FWD, owned by tycoon Richard Li, is acquiring the British lender’s 49% stake in HSBC Amanah Takaful (Malaysia) initially, with plans to ultimately own a majority by buying some shares from the existing partners, they said. The deal shows that foreign insurers are keen on Malaysia, drawn by its strong economic growth, rising middle-class income and low insurance penetration, despite lingering regulatory uncertainty over foreign ownership rules. The exact value of the deal is not immediately clear, with one of the people putting it at less than $100m. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, subject to approval by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). A foray into the Southeast Asian country by FWD will add to its Asian market footprint that already covers I...

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