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HELSINKI, Finland -- Nordic insurers are increasingly establishing operations in the Baltic Rim countries.

In the most recent such development, Finnish insurer Sampo Insurance Co. Ltd. has founded AAS Sampo Latvija, a new non-life insurance company based in Riga, Latvia. The development is the latest of Sampo's expansions in the region.

AAS Sampo Latvija will initially focus on insuring the commercial property and liability insurance, as well as cargo coverage and motor vehicle insurance.

"Sampo Latvija will apply Sampo's product and risk management know-how in its insurance services, creating operating models that are competitive and relevant to local conditions," said Janis Tereris, Sampo Latvija's managing director.

There are nine life and 19 non-life insurance companies operating in the Latvian market. Most of the larger companies are owned by Western insurers. Sampo was the first foreign insurer to enter the Baltic market in 1992, when it opened a representative office in Tallinn, Estonia.

Swedish insurer Skandia Life Assurance Co. Ltd. established a strategic collaboration in Latvia with local insurers Balta and Latva, two companies that are active, respectively, in general and life insurance. The agreement covers life, health, disability and property/casualty insurance.

Stockholm-based Baltic Brokers A.B., a company wholly owned by Swedish financiers Owe Berg and Bert-Ake Olsson, has acquired a 50% stake in Estonian health insurer Uhiskindlustus AS.

The buy-in includes a three-year management agreement with Bert-Ake Olsson taking over as the new chief executive officer in Uhiskindlustus. Meanwhile, Owe Berg has taken a seat on the Estonian insurer's board.

Uhiskindlustus mainly writes health insurance but recently began offering non-health insurance products.

"We have been observing the Estonian insurance market for several years, and through our Estonian partner Infrainvest, we placed a bid on Eesti Kindlustus, an offer which at the end of the day failed to succeed. That honor went to Eesti Hoiupank," said Mr. Olsson.

In Poland, meanwhile, Swedish insurer Trygg-Hansa A.B. has applied for a license to establish a joint venture with Garda Life S.A. that will write group life insurance. Garda Life was formed in 1996 in alliance with the Communist trade union OPZZ and has 4 million members.

Trygg-Hansa would become the first Scandinavian insurance company to enter the Polish market, though many other foreign insurers have operations in Poland. Garda Life's main competitor will be the state-owned insurer Powszechny Zaklad Ubezpieczenia.