China Life nets 7.8b yuan on investment earnings

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2007, 12:00am

Insurer among world's top 10 companies by market value

China Life Insurance, the country's largest life insurer, yesterday posted third-quarter net profit of 7.82 billion yuan on investment gains amid rising insurance premiums.

China Life, reporting third-quarter numbers for the first time since raising 28.3 billion yuan in a share listing in Shanghai in December last year, did not provide year-ago figures.

Nine-month collected insurance premium income of the Beijing-based life policy underwriter rose 6.66 per cent year on year to 158.6 billion yuan, according to Bloomberg.

Total premiums receivable in the nine months to September soared 35.9 per cent to 7.79 billion yuan, the company said.

The state-run company reported net profit of 24.69 billion yuan for the first nine months, it said without giving comparable numbers.

Earnings per share were 27 fen for the third quarter, compared with 87 fen for the first nine months, China Life said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

The announcement came not long after the company overtook AT&T in market value to give the country five of the world's 10 largest companies, compared with three from the United States.

The state-run insurer held 878.83 billion yuan in investment assets by the end of last month, generating a return of 8.63 per cent for the first nine months.

Its shares rose 1.07 per cent to HK$52 yesterday before the announcement, pushing its value up to 1.94 trillion yuan, or US$259.1 billion. AT&T, the biggest US telephone company, was valued at US$252.9 billion.

China Life, PetroChina, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec), China Mobile and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are ranked as five of the world's 10 biggest companies by market value. Only two of the mainland companies are among the world's top 50 by sales.

The three US companies on the list are Exxon Mobil Corp, General Electric and Microsoft Corp, with Exxon retaining its No1 position. The other firms on the top 10 list are Russia's Gazprom and the Netherlands' Royal Dutch Shell.

China Life is reportedly losing market share as smaller rivals such as China Pacific Insurance slash prices. Data from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission shows China Life had 44 per cent of the country's insurance market in the first eight months of this year, down four percentage points from the same period last year.

'China Life's profit is still largely driven by its investment earnings and its businesses are not as diversified as rivals such as Ping An,' said a scholar familiar with the company, adding China Life would suffer the effects of a stock-market correction more than such rivals.

The mainland stock rally has nearly tripled the benchmark stock index since December last year, prompting securities regulators to warn earlier this year that there were 'great risks' in the market.

Mainland households are increasingly pouring their US$2.3 trillion in savings into shares to beat inflation that exceeds returns on bank deposits and to cash in on the world's fastest-growing economy.

The People's Bank of China has raised bank reserve ratios eight times this year and increased interest rates five times to help cool the runaway economy.

The country's second-largest insurer, Ping An Insurance (Group), earlier reported a quadrupling of its third-quarter profit to 3.6 billion yuan amid soaring investment returns from the country's stock market.



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