UPDATE 1-China Life posts first quarterly loss since 2008
(Adds further details, comparison with Ping An Insurance)
SHANGHAI Oct 26 (Reuters) - China Life Insurance Co Ltd , the world's largest insurer by market value, has posted its first quarterly loss since 2008 due to big impairment losses from a sluggish domestic stock market.
The company said it made a third-quarter loss of 2.2 billion yuan ($352.47 million) compared with a 3.75 billion yuan profit a year ago, having warned last week that its net profit in the first nine months of the year would fall about 55 percent..
The results, which come after seven consecutive quarters of profit declines, contrasts sharply with the stable profit growth at main rival Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China , which has benefited from diversifying.
China Life is suffering from "lower investment returns and higher asset impairment losses due to persistently sluggish capital markets," the company said in a statement posted on the Shanghai stock exchange website.
Some investors see the 29 billion yuan asset devaluation during the January-September period as part of efforts by newly-appointed Chairman Yang Mingsheng to clean up the books.
But even though China Life's market share has been shrinking, most analysts do not expect drastic strategic changes at the state-controlled company where senior managers, including Yang, who was an official at the insurance regulator, are appointed by the central government.
Ping An, which will report its third-quarter earnings on Oct 30, may see its quarterly profit almost double thanks to robust growth in its banking business, according to a forecast by Shenyin Wanguo Securities Co.
Ping An's founder and Chairman Peter Ma has introduced HSBC Holdings Plc as a strategic investor and hired a team of professional managers to fulfil his long-cherished ambition of making Ping An China's biggest financial conglomerate.
Hong Kong-listed shares of China Life, which has a stock market value of about $82 billion, have risen 12.7 percent this year, less than the 16.8 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index. Ping An's Hong Kong-listed shares have risen 14.1 percent. ($1=6.2547 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Samuel Shen and Clare Baldwin; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
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