Ping An Insurance sees fintech and other technologies as key business development area

China’s second-largest insurer seeks to build on a ninefold surge in profit from its tech division in the first half

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 10:55pm

Ping An Insurance (Group), China’s second-largest insurer in terms of premiums, plans to make its technology business a key development area, building on a surge in profit from the division in the first half of the year.

The company has been steadily expanding its presence in fintech and other technology areas in recent years, and profit from the business rose ninefold to 4.2 billion yuan in the first half, representing 7 per cent of overall operating profit, compared with less than 1 per cent last year.

“In the future, focusing on retail customers, Ping An will strive to become a world leading, technology-powered retail financial services group. We will leverage technology innovations to create greater value for customers,” founding chairman Peter Ma Mingzhe told a briefing on the company’s half-year earnings.

One example of its tech push is the US$1 billion Ping An Global Voyager Fund, which focuses on fintech and health care related technologies.

The insurer on Tuesday reported a 34 per cent growth in net profit for the first half of this year, beating expectations of a 26 per cent rise in a Bloomberg survey. Driving the growth was a 24 per cent increase in profit from the life and health business to 35 billion yuan, which represents 59 per cent of its operating profit.

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The interim dividend payment also increased 24 per cent to 0.62 yuan per share, and the company plans to maintain high levels of dividend payouts.

The company’s shares rose 3.5 per cent on Wednesday to HK$72.80. Several brokerages revised up their target prices for the stock after the results.

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Jessica Tan, deputy chief executive of Ping An, said the company would continue to promote its so-called smart city projects in China, looking to expand beyond the current 200 locations.

In these projects, Ping An charges a fee to help city governments adopt artificial intelligence or other technologies to improve traffic control, education, health care and other areas.

Ping An has also been investing in tech start-ups and has raised four unicorns – companies with valuations over US$1 billion. Of the four, Ping An spun off Ping An Good Doctor in an IPO in April to raise US$1.1 billion.

The others are internet lending and wealth management platform Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange, or Lufax; medical health management company Ping An Healthcare Technology and online finance site OneConnect.

Tan declined to talk about listing plans for any other of its start-ups.