Ping An put itself on course to become the first insurance company to branch out into infrastructure investment. The company signed letters of intent Thursday to buy into three expressways in the coal-mining province of Shanxi. The government has awarded it a US$1.25 billion investment quota, Ping An said, which accounts for the bulk of the US$1.5 billion assigned to a trial program allowing insurers to invest in domestic infrastructure projects. The remainder of the quota will be shared by leading life insurer China Life, top-ranked non-life insurer PICC Property & Casualty and Taikang Life Insurance. In March, insurance firms were given the green light to invest up to 5% of their total assets in infrastructure projects so that they could improve returns and diversify investment risk. In the past insurers were forced to place most of their assets in low-yield bank deposits and government bonds.