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China Life's profit jumps almost three fold in first nine months on investment gains

Zhang Shidong in Shanghaishidong.zhang@scmp.com

China Life Insurance, the nation's second-largest insurer, posted an almost threefold increase in profit for the first nine months, as a run-up in stocks bolstered investment gains and premium incomes rose.

Net income for the first three quarters jumped 190 per cent from a year ago to 57.7 billion yuan (US$8.2 billion) based on the Chinese accounting standard, the insurer said in an exchange statement. The value of new business, a gauge of future profitability, grew by 20 per cent in the period, it said. China Life did not provide data for the third quarter alone in the report.

A turnaround on China's Shanghai Composite Index significantly boosted profits of insurance companies, which are allowed to invest as much as 30 per cent of their assets in equities. The benchmark has risen 18 per cent so far this year, reversing an annual loss of 25 per cent in 2018, as policymakers loosen policies to offset the fallout of the China-US trade war and foreign inflows accelerate.

China Life's investment yield was 5.72 per cent in the nine-month period, an increase of 2.31 percentage points from a year earlier, it said in the quarterly report. Premium incomes increased 6.1 per cent from a year ago to 497 billion yuan and the number of sales people rose by 10 per cent, to 1.95 million, it said.

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Shares of China Life have surged 51 per cent this year in Shanghai and its Hong Kong-traded stock has risen 19 per cent.

In July, China eased rules for foreign insurance companies looking to enter the country.

China's insurance market is dominated by domestic players despite years of reforms. Foreign insurers have an 8.1 per cent share, a level that would suggest mainland consumers have yet to reap benefits that come with greater market competition, according to Moody's Investors Service.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.