Ping An is launching a $1bn fund to invest in financial and healthcare technology globally in a sign of the Chinese insurance giant’s desire to expand its brand and business outside its home market.
The insurer, the world’s largest by market capitalisation and fourth in terms of total assets, has increasingly been building a reputation for tech investing in related fields, most notably developing Lufax, the Chinese wealth management platform valued at $19bn and Good Doctor, the fast-growing health app worth $3bn in a 2016 funding round.
The new fund, named Global Voyager, will be headed by Jonathan Larsen, an 18-year veteran of Citigroup, who also becomes the Ping An group’s chief innovation officer.
“Ping An is predominantly Chinese but they are at the point where they are interested in looking at expansion opportunities and this fund potentially provides a way of accessing these,” he told the Financial Times. “We think there’s a very substantial opportunity here.”
Ping An’s new fund will begin with $1bn which Mr Larsen expects to have fully invested in between three and four years. Investments will range from early-stage start-ups to ventures ready to scale up, either from stand-alone financing or from being adopted by the insurer itself.
The company last month reported first-quarter profits of Rmb23bn ($3.3bn), up 11 per cent from the same period last year, and a customer base of 138m.
Ping An employs more than 20,000 tech developers in its 275,000-strong workforce and Peter Ma, founder and chief executive of Ping An, has been referred to as the “third Ma” in reference to his standing in China alongside Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Tencent’s Pony Ma, with whom he has often worked closely.
Ping An’s new fund comes at a time when investors are increasingly questioning tech valuations including in China where Good Doctor, an app which dispenses diagnoses and books doctor appointments, is one of the better-known offerings, but it competes against more than 2000 healthcare apps.
“There is froth and its not unique to China,” said Mr Larsen. “It means we need to be very purposeful in the targets we pursue and how we allocate money.”