Ping An Insurance Q1 profit rises 46 percent on strong sales

HONG KONG, April 28 Mon Apr 28, 2014 8:07am EDT

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HONG KONG, April 28 (Reuters) - Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China, the country's second-largest insurer by market value, posted a 46 percent rise in first-quarter profit as investment income recovered and its core life insurance business saw strong growth.

Ping An earned a net profit of 10.8 billion yuan ($1.73 billion) in the first three months of the year compared with 7.39 billion yuan a year earlier, it said in a Shanghai stock exchange filing on Monday.

Total written premiums in the group's core life insurance business grew nearly 23 percent in the first quarter, the company said.

Ping An's full-year 2013 net profit jumped 40 percent year-on-year, a rise that was below the expectations of analysts who had forecast an even stronger recovery in insurers' investment portfolios.

While China's insurers have improved returns on their investments, they have found it tough to increase sales amid tighter regulation and intensifying competition.

China's insurance regulator said earlier this month it had relaxed rules on mergers and acquisitions in the industry, a move that could spark consolidation among smaller, weaker players.

Shares in Ping An fell 1.6 percent in Hong Kong on Monday ahead of the announcement, further than a 0.4 percent drop in the broader Hang Seng index.

($1 = 6.2536 Chinese Yuan) (Reporting By Lawrence White; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Mark Potter)

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