Hong Kong insurer Asia Financial reports doubling of interim profit on investment gains
Asia Financial Holdings, which owns one of the largest general insurers in Hong Kong and is headed by the city’s executive council convenor Bernard Chan, reported a 105.5 per cent profit increase in the first half of the year.
The company said on Wednesday that net profit for the first half of 2017 was at HK$265.9 million, or 27.2 HK cents per share, up from HK$129.4 million a year earlier.
It announced an interim dividend of 4 HK cents per share, up 60 per cent from 2.5 HK cents last year.
Chan, president of Asia Financial, said the profit growth was mainly due to investment gains of HK$107.4 million in the first half, up 294.8 per cent from a year earlier.
This was offset by an 11.4 per cent decline in underwriting profit to HK$100.5 million.
“Trading investments showed strong gains in 2017 which reflects the strength in the stock markets in Hong Kong, mainland China and the US,” he said.
However, Stephen Tan, executive director of the company, warned of risks of a market downturn.
“We are selling instead of buying. The Hong Kong market is up 20 per cent this year while the US is up 10 per cent. The markets in Europe, Japan and Thailand all have gone up substantially. [They] may have rallied too high already,” he said.
Political tensions between the US and North Korea as well as the winding down of monetary easing policies in the US and Europe may trigger a market downfall, Tan said.
The company said its investment in the hospital business in Thailand was also doing well.
Asia Financial is expecting to earn HK$1 billion (US$130 million) from the disposal of its holdings in Hong Kong Life.
Asia Financial’s core business is general insurance. It owns Asia Insurance, one of the top ten general insurers in Hong Kong, and has investments in a number of insurance joint ventures including Hong Kong Life, which it jointly owns with four other financial firms.
First Origin International agreed in March to pay HK$7.1 billion for a stake in Hong Kong Life. The buyer behind the First Origin deal is a consortium of five mainland companies, including UCF Group which has businesses in financial technology, online wealth management, payments, health care and real estate, a source familiar with the matter told the South China Morning Post.
“We are now in the second phase of this acquisition as we are waiting for the approval of the Insurance Authority of Hong Kong,” Chan said. “This is expected to take a long time. We have received HK$100 million deposit from the buyers but we cannot book the deposit nor the profit until the deal is completed.”