Explained: Insurance giant LIC's $8 billion mega-IPO

An exterior view of Life Insurance Corporation of India's (LIC) Mumbai headquarters. File Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

New Delhi: The Indian government has set the ball rolling for the country's biggest initial public offering (IPO) by March-end, filing draft papers for a share sale by state-owned insurance giant Life Insurance Corp of India (LIC) with regulators on Sunday.

Very little was previously known about finances at the 65-year-old firm, which declared its embedded value for the first time pegging it at Rs 5.39 trillion ($72 billion). Embedded value is a measure of future cash flows in life insurance companies, a key gauge.

Here are some four key facts to consider ahead of the IPO:

Assets under management
LIC's assets under management (AUM) stood at Rs 39.56 trillion as of September 30, 2021 - more than three times the total AUM of all private life insurers in Asia's third largest economy. LIC, the biggest domestic institutional investor, has 25% of its AUM invested in equities.

The firm is a household name in India. It has seen private competition heat up, but it has been able to maintain its market share at 66%. However, new business has been growing at a tepid pace compared to some other players.

In the year ended March, 2021, gross written premiums for LIC increased by 6.30%, compared with 24% for SBI Life and 18% for HDFC Life.

LIC's new business margin was 9.90%, compared with 20% for SBI Life and 26.10% for HDFC Life.

Policyholders and agents
LIC has 283 million policyholders and the largest agent network in the country with 1.35 million registered agents.

In the IPO, the firm will also earmark a certain percentage of shares for policyholders, not exceeding 10% of the offer size, while the portion reserved for employees will not be more than 5% of post-offer equity share capital, according to the filing. LIC employed 114,498 people as of end-March, 2021.

In order to encourage policyholders to invest in the IPO, the firm has deployed sales agents to persuade policyholders - many of them first-time investors in equities - to open trading accounts.

Risks flagged
In the draft prospectus the insurance behemoth has flagged certain risks, such as that it may need additional capital in the future and that it cannot guarantee that it will be able to amass that capital "on acceptable terms or at all".

LIC may also need to pump in additional capital in IDBI Bank, according to the filing, which could also further strain its balance sheet.

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