November 9, 2017 / 2:20 AM / a year ago

Chinese insurers' premium income growth slows in first 9 months as crackdown weighs

BEIJING (Reuters) - Insurance premium income growth at Chinese insurers slowed in the first nine months compared with a year earlier, after the regulator widened a crackdown this year on the risky and aggressive investment behavior of some insurers.

Overall insurance premium income rose 21 percent in the first three quarters of 2017 from a year earlier to 3 trillion yuan ($453 billion), the insurance regulator said on Thursday. That compares with a jump of 32 percent in the same period a year earlier.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) has clamped down on excessive use of short-term, risky universal life products. A handful of insurance firms have been punished for problems involving shareholder equities, internal controls and transactions with related parties.

Outstanding investment by insurers stood at 14.6 trillion yuan as of the end of September, up 9.38 percent from the start of the year, Duan Haizhou, an official at CIRC, told reporters at a quarterly briefing in Beijing.

Nine-month investment yields were at 4.05 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from a year earlier, Duan said.

Insurers’ nine-month profits rose 18.31 percent from a year earlier to 185.7 billion yuan, he added.

Ping An Insurance Group Co of China (2318.HK)(601318.SS), the country’s largest insurer by market value, said last month its third-quarter net profit surged 45.5 percent from a year earlier due to strong insurance sales.

China Life Insurance Co (601628.SS)(2628.HK), the country’s No.2 insurer, said net profit more than quadrupled in the quarter, partly due to healthy premiums, and thanks to investment gains in the stock market.

Total assets held by insurers were at 16.58 trillion yuan as of the end of September, up 9.69 percent from the beginning of the year.

Reporting by Shu Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Sam Holmes

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