Japan's Meiji Yasuda looks to diversify its foreign bond holdings

* Insurer to diversify currency base of foreign bonds

* Insurer to focus on credit instruments such as corporate bonds

* Dollar bonds to remain mainstay, but insurer also eyes euro debt (Adds details and quotes)

By Shinichi Saoshiro and Kentaro Sugiyama

TOKYO, April 23 (Reuters) - Japan's Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co plans to increase its foreign bond holdings in the fiscal year through March 2020 by diversifying into more currencies, a senior company executive said on Tuesday.

The country's third-largest private life insurer manages assets of around 38.5 trillion yen ($349 billion), of which about 7.1 trillion, or 19 percent, consists of foreign bonds.

The insurer added credit assets, such as corporate bonds, denominated in the Swedish kroner and the Canadian dollar in the previous fiscal year, Masao Aratani, deputy president of Meiji Yasuda Life and chief of the company's investment division, said at a press conference.

Due to ultra-low yields at home, Japanese insurers have struck out abroad in recent years in search of higher returns.

U.S. Treasuries were their mainstay instruments, but factors such as high dollar hedging costs have increasingly pushed insurers towards instruments including corporate debt and asset-backed securities.

"Dollar-denominated instruments will remain our core assets. But we will also explore currency-hedged euro bonds if they offer an attractive alternative to yen bonds," Aratani said.

"When it comes to currency-hedged foreign bonds, yields in Germany are too low, and in such a case France comes into view," Aratani said.

Meiji Yasuda said the ratio of its unhedged and hedged foreign bond holdings was approximately four to six.

The insurer aims to boost unhedged foreign bond holdings during times of yen appreciation.

After reducing them last year, Meiji Yasuda said it aimed to slightly increase Japanese bond holdings this fiscal year with focus on credit instruments that offer higher yields relative to government debt. ($1 = 111.7800 yen) (Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Shreejay Sinha)

First Published: 2019-04-23 09:14:08
Updated 2019-04-23 10:20:38

© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.