National Mutual Asia (NMA), Hong Kong's only listed insurance company, has announced a 24 per cent jump in net profit to $529 million for the six months to March. The territory's second largest insurer yesterday said it would pay an interim dividend of seven cents a share, a rise of 40 per cent, taking the total interim dividend payment from $108 million to $152 million. Earnings per share rose 10 per cent to 24.49 cents while income from premiums rose to $2.25 billion from $1.99 billion. Assets under management rose 25 per cent to $14.28 billion. National Mutual has a portfolio of private and group schemes ranging from traditional whole-of-life policies to pension plans and medical cover. The territory's insurance industry is dominated by three insurers - AIA, National Mutual and Manulife - which together account for 75 per cent of the market in terms of new premiums. The company's total revenue is basically determined by premium income and investment income. Of its $2.25 billion in premium revenue, about 70 per cent is from individual life business, 20 per cent from retirement policies, and the rest from group life, group medical and general insurance. Revenue from retirement business was up 18 per cent while general insurance revenue fell 9 per cent, largely because of the downturn in car and household insurance. Investment performance was again set back by a fall of about 8 per cent in property. This was offset by gains of 11 per cent in equities and 2.8 per cent in bonds. The bulk of the group's property portfolio is a 53 per cent stake in its Wan Chai office. Total investment returns at 3.7 per cent were slightly below projected gains of 4.3 per cent. Chief executive Terry Smith said: 'A significant improvement was experienced in our business retention, which will result in an increase in future renewal premium income. 'In force annual premiums grew by an impressive year-on-year 13 per cent, reflecting improved persistency, as well as the increase in new business.' Market interest is focused on the performance by the company's agents after the 1994 defection to Top Glory of former chief executive Andrew Yang and 650 agents. Mr Smith said the number of agents had increased 7 per cent to 2,569, with terminations, either resignations or dismissals, dropping 21 per cent to 634. He said the agents were among the most productive in the territory.