LIFE and general insurers' profitability improved markedly in 1992, according to a Hongkong Bank survey of 50 leading locally incorporated insurers. Life insurers achieved an average rate of return on shareholders' funds (excluding extraordinaries) of 55.1 per cent, from 32 per cent the previous year, the bank said in the October edition of Economic Report. General insurers' average rate of return rose to 13.2 per cent, against 10.8 per cent in 1991. Composite insurers' average rate of return fell to 9.2 per cent, from 10.6 per cent, and specialist re-insurers' averages were worse, plummeting 17.3 per cent, in 1992, a worse performance than the 15.5 per cent fall for 1991. Specialist re-insurers have not recorded positive numbers since 1988, when they averaged 7.2 per cent. The industry average in 1992 was nine per cent, slightly better than the eight per cent recorded for 1991. Figures for last year were not yet available, but the trend was believed to have continued into 1993, the article said. Total income for general insurers rose 20 per cent in 1992 to $11,693 million, and life insurers' total income grew 21 per cent to $14,834 million, the report said. General insurers' spending grew by 17 per cent in 1992 to $9,989 million, and life insurers' expenditure rose by 39 per cent to $11.279 million. For general insurers' losses from higher employee compensation and vehicle theft dogged the industry. 'The problem of car theft, albeit improved from the previously catastrophic situation appears to be far from resolved and will most likely continue in the coming years,' the Economic Report said.