Japanese first on `single passport'

A Japanese company has become the first insurer in Britain to base its European operations in London using the European Union's new "single passport" for insurance regulation.

Yasuda Kasai, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan's second-biggest insurer, Yasuda, has applied to the Department of Trade and Industry to run its businesses in six EU countries under the authorisation and supervision of the UK authorities.

Approval of the application to transfer the insurer's existing portfolios from the continental branches is expected in April. Mark Boleat, director of the Association of British Insurers, welcomed the move.

The EU's third directive for insurance regulation, the so-called single passport, came into effect last summer and enables a company that has been authorised to do business in one member country to use that licence to ply its trade in any other EU state.

"Under the old system, we would have had six different applications to make and six sets of negotiations with different insurance regulators, involving an enormous amount of paperwork and taking anything between nine and 18 months each," said John Young,partner at the law firm Lovell, White Durrant, which is handling the application to the DTI.

Yasuda Kasai covers the interests of Japanese clients in Europe and writes annual business worth about £20m.