UPDATE 2-Indian insurers plan to raise over $1 billion in two IPOs
* ICICI Pru, HDFC Life to be first insurance IPOs
* SBI Life may announce this year intention to go public
* ICICI Pru seeking up to $700 mln, HDFC Life up to $500 mln (Adds comments from fund manager and banker, context)
SINGAPORE/MUMBAI, May 6 (Reuters) - Two of India's leading private-sector insurers are looking to raise over $1 billion this financial year in the sector's first initial public offerings (IPOs), as insurance companies rush to take advantage of a change in ownership rules.
ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and HDFC Standard Life Insurance will likely be followed by SBI Life Insurance in reacting to a relaxation in foreign investment regulation last year that made share sales more feasible, in a country where most life insurers are part-foreign owned.
Asia's third-largest economy boasts a $50 billion insurance sector yet is home to relatively few people owning life insurance policies. With an increasingly wealthy middle class, insurers see plenty of room for growth.
"The business potential for insurance companies is large," said New Delhi-based R.K. Gupta, managing director at Taurus Asset Management.
"But too many players are in the market, competition is going up," he said. ICICI and HDFC are well-established and big enough to beat back rivals, he said.
ICICI Pru Life, a joint venture between India's ICICI Bank Ltd and Britain's Prudential PLC, is set to hire Bank of America Merrill Lynch and ICICI Securities for an IPO up to $700 million in size, Thomson Reuters publication IFR reported on Friday. Continuación...