Sumitomo Marine & Fire Insurance and Mitsui Marine & Fire Insurance agreed
to merge by April 1, 2002, in a move that would create Japan's largest non-life insurer. With combined assets of $51.7 billion, the merged company will outstrip current industry leader Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance, whose assets stand at $48.5 billion.
Analysts say the merger will accelerate consolidation in the sector, where competition is intensifying, due mainly to the deregulation of insurance premiums in July 1998.
The companies will unveil a detailed merger plan in March.