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Great Eastern Holdings on Thursday said "it is assessing possible options" in reponse to media reports suggesting that the life insurance company is mulling to divest its stake in Malaysia operations.

The Singapore-listed firm, which is backed by OCBC Bank, said it plans to sell a minority stake in Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia) Berhad to comply with the prevailing foreign ownership requirements applicable to insurance companies in Malaysia.

The assessment is preliminary at this stage and shareholders are advised that there is no certainty that any agreement will be entered into, the company said.

Great Eastern Holdings has already engaged a Malaysian bank to discuss the potential sale of Malaysia operations for US$1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday citing people familiar with the matter.

Other foreign insurers reportedly in talks to sell their stakes in their respective Malaysian units ahead of a Bank Negara deadline requiring a 30 percent local ownership include Britain's Prudential Plc and Japan's Tokio Marine Holdings, the WSJ report said.

Last June, the Malaysian central bank gave insurers until June 2018 to meet its requirement that foreign ownership should not exceed 70 percent. The move was aimed at increasing local participation in the industry.

Shares in Great Eastern Holdings gained 1.4 percent to S$26.05 on the Singapore Exchange. The stock has risen about 28 percent so far this year.