As our future growth will essentially depend on how we expand our business abroad, we will continue to make our way into overseas markets.
Our Singapore branch has provided stable capacity to the Southeast Asian market over the last 40 years. Across the market, Korean Re is recognized as a leading reinsurance company that provides reliable quotations based on consistent underwriting policy. We remain actively responsive to our clients’ needs, supporting their risk management objectives. Along with market development, their needs keep changing and evolving, and we are striving to keep up with market needs and expand our business portfolio accordingly.
Korean Re opened Labuan branch in July 2017 to serve the Malaysian market as a Tier 2 reinsurer. Building on our track record in Singapore, the branch is expected to help us further increase our market share in Malaysia. As one of the market leaders in the region, we will stay committed to providing excellent client services across diverse lines of business. For the sake of administrative cost savings, the branch is operated without staff, with necessary documentation and administrative activities being handled by our Singapore branch.
Our DIFC branch in Dubai, which opened in January 2018, achieved relatively successful results in its first year of operation not only by receiving a stable transfer of existing contracts from the head office but also by attracting new contracts.
The branch office covers the Middle East, all of Africa, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, and the reinsurance business environment in this region has deteriorated, like many other parts of the world, following years of market softening. Some reinsurers withdrew their operations from the region during 2018, but at the same time there were also new players entering the region. As a result, reinsurance market capacity has been maintained at a sufficient level, and reinsurance terms and conditions are not expected to improve dramatically.
In response, DIFC branch is planning to further strengthen its presence in the existing market, while actively targeting untapped markets in Africa to seek sustained growth and diversification of its portfolio.
Korean Re obtained preliminary approval for its Shanghai branch from the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission on September 26, 2018. This marked a significant progress in setting up our first branch office in China. Korean Re is now required to complete the preparatory work to establish the branch within one year from the date of pre-approval in order to get the green light to do business in China.
China is the second largest insurance market in the world after the United States. The Chinese market has been growing at a face pace, and its growth potential is enormous considering it currently has a relatively low insurance penetration of 4.6 percent. Through the establishment of the branch, we aim to build a strong presence in China, which is one of the most important markets for our global business growth.
Korean Reinsurance Switzerland AG is set to open in 2019 after it was incorporated in July 2018. The new entity in Switzerland will start operation with the aim of growing our business in the European market. Europe is one of the largest insurance markets in the world, with a global market share of around 30 percent. Switzerland, in particular, is at the center of the European reinsurance industry, with 54 reinsurers from across the world operating in the country.
It will be Korean Re’s second base in Europe following the one established at Lloyd’s in the UK in 2015. Korean Re will rely on the Swiss entity to effectively implement its business strategy in Europe and to ensure a Solvency II compliant continuity of its EU expansion.