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China's Ping An Insurance profit jumps on strong investment returns

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Ping An Insurance is seen at the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) at the National Convention Center in Beijing, China April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) - Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China Ltd, the country’s largest insurer by market value, posted a 77 percent jump in first-quarter net profit on strong investment returns driven by a capital market recovery.

Ping An, the only Asian insurer deemed globally systemically important by regulators, said its net profit came in at 45.52 billion yuan ($6.76 billion) for the quarter ended March, versus 25.70 billion yuan in the same period last year.

This marks Ping An’s fastest rate of profit growth for the period since at least 2014, according to Reuters calculations.

The upbeat performance by Ping An, China’s most diversified insurer, comes amid a months-long Chinese market rally on optimism that the world’s No.2 economy may be starting to stabilise as Beijing ramps up fiscal stimulus and maintains ample liquidity to bolster growth.

Ping An’s bottom line was pushed up by investment income that rose more than six times to 46.6 billion yuan.

Gross written premiums grew 8.4 percent year-on-year to 274.39 billion yuan in the first quarter, while retail customers grew 3.6 percent to 191 million.

Ping An’s asset management division posted a 19.9 percent rise in quarterly net profit. Ping An, last month, reported a better-than-expected annual profit, boosted by growth in its core life and health insurance business, and announced it would return up to 10 billion yuan to shareholders through its first share buyback.

Mainland shares of Ping An gained 4 percent ahead of the results announcement. They have gained 57 percent this year, versus the blue-chip CSI300 index’s 31 percent rise, giving the company a market value of 1.49 trillion yuan.

($1 = 6.7322 Chinese yuan)

Reporting By Shu Zhang in SINGAPORE and Cheng Leng in BEIJING; Editing by Himani Sarkar