SBI Life is set to enter Bahrain in the next financial year and is awaiting regulatory permission to open a branch there, a top company official has said.
"We are all set to expand and enter Bahrain next financial year and we have already received the approvals from Irdai (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) for the same," SBI Life managing director and chief executive Arijit Basu told PTI.
"We are now waiting for the approval from Central Bank of Bahrain (which also regulates that country's insurance industry) to kick off our operations," he said.
SBI Life is a joint venture between State Bank of India and the French financial services powerhouse BNP Paribas' Cardiff.
The SBI had recently said that it would dilute 10 per cent of its stake in the life arm through a public offer.
Basu said though the initial focus will be on non-resident Indians or people of Indian origin living in Bahrain, they may also serve the locals in the future.
Currently, the state-run LIC is the only domestic insurer which is present in the Gulf.
The Bahrain-headquartered LIC International is present in five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries -- Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
The LIC also has eight overseas arms - Britain, Fiji, Mauritius, Bahrain, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
LIC International managing director Rajesh Kandwal had earlier said the overall insurance penetration in GCC is likely to improve from 1.1 per cent in 2012 to 2.2 per cent in 2017.
Bahrain has the highest insurance penetration of 2.1 per cent in GCC.
Though HDFC Life, from private sector, kicked off its operations in Dubai International Financial Centre a year ago, it is restricted to reinsurance activities only.
The state-owned reinsurer GIC Re is also present in six countries.
In the non-life insurance space, New India Assurance is present in 22 countries, whereas National Insurance and Oriental Insurance are present in Nepal.
The Shriram General Insurance from private sector has operations in Philippines. Earlier, United India Insurance was planning to enter Sri Lanka and West Asia.
As on February 15, SBI Life was ahead of all its peers in the private sector when it comes to total new business premium clipping at 55 per cent to Rs 8,035 crore.
At present, around 40 per cent of SBI's 20,000 branches sell SBI Life's products.
Among the private sector life insurers, SBI Life has a market share of 22 per cent.