Ping An reports strong increase in premiums

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 February, 2009, 12:00am

Ping An Insurance (Group) has reported stronger than expected premium growth last month, fuelled by sustained demand for traditional policies.

Life insurance premiums at the country's second-largest insurer rose 23 per cent to 13.31 billion yuan (HK$15.1 billion), according to a statement filed with the stock exchange. Premiums collected by its property and casualty units rose 13 per cent to 3.6 billion yuan.

Premium growth was stronger than expected, taking into account the slowing economy and the Lunar New Year holiday last month, analysts said.

Shenzhen-based Ping An benefited from its traditional insurance policies as customers faced near-zero deposit rates at banks and a declining stock market, they said.

'Ping An is more focused on individual sales than other insurance companies,' said Core Pacific- Yamaichi International analyst Olive Xia. 'It is less sensitive to the volatility in bancassurance sales that the regulator has been very concerned about.'

Credit Suisse said if the strong momentum last month was sustainable, the value of Ping An's new business, a measure of the margins from premiums, could be much higher than 12 per cent this year.

China Life Insurance, the country's largest insurer, announced earlier that premiums grew 19 per cent last month.

'Life insurance is still a supply-driven market in Asia, where insurance is sold, not bought,' Citigroup analyst Bob Leung said in a research report.

'The shift of liquidity out of the bank deposit system will continue to extend the current supernormal growth period observed in China, regardless of the economic cycle,' he said.

The United States-based brokerage forecast mainland life insurers would see 15 to 20 per cent growth in the value of new business this year, offsetting slower growth in bancassurance - the sale of insurance products by a bank.

Regulators have reined in bancassurance growth since August last year, when banks sold a lot of investment-linked products amid the stock market boom.

Ping An shares gained 3.6 per cent to HK$36 yesterday.