Ping An Insurance Group has reported its sixth year of double-digit percentage growth in earnings as its investments in technology paid off, while policy sales grew at China’s second-biggest insurer. Net profit jumped 20.6 per cent to 107.4 billion yuan (US$16 billion) last year, beating the 97.48 billion yuan consensus in a Bloomberg survey of 11 analysts. Sales rose 11 per cent to 1.08 trillion yuan, missing the analysts’ expectation of 1.143 trillion yuan. The Shenzhen-based company, founded by Peter Ma Mingzhe three decades ago as a life insurer, has grown into a conglomerate with operations from banking and financial services to internet and health care. As many as 538 million internet users access its range of services online. “At Ping An, we empower ecosystems with technologies,” Ma said in the company’s earnings statement. “We are building five ecosystems, covering financial services, health care, auto services, real estate services, and smart city services.” The company, whose name means “safe and well” in Chinese, will pay 1.72 yuan per share in full-year dividend, 14.7 per cent higher than last year. Ping An will also pay a special dividend of 0.2 yuan per share to mark its 30th anniversary. Ping An shares rose 2.1 per cent to HK$82.70 on the Hong Kong exchange before earnings were announced. The stock has fallen 4.7 per cent in the last 12 months. “Despite tough sales outlook in the first quarter of 2019, Ping An remains a long-term core holding in the Chinese insurance space,” said Credit Suisse’s analyst Charles Zhou, who has an “outperform” recommendation on Ping An. “We expect sustainable and progressive dividend, as the insurer considers linking dividend to its operating profits.” Operating profit from the life and health insurance, which form the core of Ping An’s business, rose 35 per cent last year to 71.35 billion yuan. Financial technology and health care, a key sector of investments for the company in recent years, brought 6.77 billion yuan in operating profit, or 6 per cent of overall operating profit. “ Contributions from our technological innovation increased,” Ma said. “In the fintech and healthtech sectors, we have explored and developed innovative business models and built a number of unicorns from scratch,” Ma said. Ping An has made the right bets in several start-ups, reaping a financial bonanza when these unicorns – companies with at least US$1 billion in valuations – sell their shares in initial public offerings (IPOs). The first among these was the HK$8.77 billion listing last May of Ping An Healthcare and Technology, better known as Ping An Good Doctor , which offers a mobile application to provide medical consultations to millions of users. The company is also planning to list its fintech platform OneConnect this year to raise up to US$1 billion, Bloomberg reported last month, citing people familiar with the matter. OneConnect has completed a Series A financing, valuing the entire company at US$7.5 billion. Ping An Medical and Healthcare Management, also known as Ping An HealthKonnect, is a Shanghai-based platform that uses cloud computing and data analysis for linking medical history with health insurance. The company is valued at US$8.8 billion after completing a Series A financing. Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange, or Lufax, an online financial marketplace founded in 2011, has completed a refinancing deal at a valuation of US$39.4 billion, Ma said.