Hong Kong company reporting season

China Life’s 2016 profit falls 45 per cent on investment loss

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 10:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 10:30pm

China Life Insurance Co., the country’s largest life insurer, reported a decline in 2016 net profit, due to losses in its investments.

Net profit fell 45 per cent to 19.1 billion yuan (US$2.77 billion), or 0.66 yuan per share, the Beijing-based insurer said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

“This was primarily due to the decrease in gross investment income and the impact of the update of discount rate assumption of reserves of traditional insurance contracts,” said Yang Mingsheng, chairman of China Life, in the result statement.

Gross investment income fell 23 per cent to 108.2 billion yuan, due to fluctuations in the capital market. Net premiums rose 17.6 per cent to 426.2 billion yuan, giving China Life the largest share of the country’s life insurance market, at almost 20 per cent.

First-year regular premiums jumped 51.8 per cent to 93.9 billion yuan, indicating that the insurer had been successful in selling new policies.

The gross written premium of health insurance, which China Life has actively promoted, expanded 29 per cent to 54 billion yuan while accident insurance grew 6 per cent 14.6 billion yuan.

“Despite all the problems accompanying advancement and development, the fundamental trend of a slower but stable performance with good momentum for economic growth in China remains unchanged, and golden opportunities for the development of the insurance industry still exist,” Yang said.

China Life had been sitting out the explosive growth in the country’s wealth-management products, as dozens of small, aggressive insurers have sprouted since 2014 and cornered the market of high-yield financial products. These products in turn became the source of funds for their controlling shareholders to finance their corporate raids and takeovers.

After several years of runaway growth, the Chinese regulator has finally stepped in, clamping down on the most aggressive insurers with penalties and reprimands.

With additional “regulations and requirements set by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, and the advancement of the industry’s transformation, more opportunities arise for a value-oriented and prudent company like China Life,” Yang said.