BEIJING (Reuters) - Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China Ltd (601318.SS), (2318.HK) on Thursday reported a 42.7% drop in first-quarter profit, its biggest fall in quarterly profits in more than eight years, as the coronavirus outbreak disrupted its businesses.
Ping An, the country’s largest insurer by market value, said net profit fell to 26.063 billion yuan ($3.68 billion) in the January-March quarter from 45.52 billion a year earlier.
This marks the biggest drop in its quarterly earnings since the third quarter in 2011 when it reported a 44% year-on-year fall in net profit, Reuters calculations showed.
The company said in statement on Thursday that the epidemic would hinder its offline business development, drag down investment income and increase credit risks in the short term.
China’s economy contracted for the first time on record in the first quarter as the virus shut down factories and shopping malls and put millions out of work.
Ping An’s insurance sales have been hit by the impact of the coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
As China has been restricting people from travelling since January to contain the spread of the virus, insurance sales agents were not able to visit customers to discuss and get policies signed.
Insurers in China, the world’s third-largest insurance market, still generate most of their sales via millions of agents across the country, even as product distribution through digital channels has been gradually growing.
Gross written premiums at Ping An Insurance fell 6% year-on-year to 257.94 billion yuan in the first quarter, while the number of retail customers increased 1.9% to 204.37 million.
Investment income fell 60.1% to 25.931 billion yuan with a 1.7 percentage points cut in annualised yield, driven by the “nosedive” in capital markets both at home and abroad, the company said.
However, Ping An’s banking business, which accounted 19% of the quarterly earnings, remained resilient despite the pandemic with a 14.7% year-on-year profit increase in the period.
“With ongoing global spread of COVID-19, the world economy and international trade are under growing downward pressure, and the international financial market turmoil may escalate,” the group said.
Reporting by Zhang Yan, Cheng Leng in Beijing and Engen Tham in Shanghai; editing by Jason Neely and Jane Merriman