March 20, 2018 / 9:21 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Ping An Insurance annual profit soars 43pct on life insurance sales

* Ping An 2017 profit jumps 43 pct

* 2017 life insurance premiums 475.9bln yuan vs 373.8bln yuan a year ago Ping An to weather tighter rules better than peers - analyst (Recasts, adds details and analyst comments)

SHANGHAI, March 20 (Reuters) - Ping An Insurance Group Co of China Ltd , China’s largest insurer by market value, on Tuesday posted a forecast-beating 43 percent jump in annual net profit, boosted by strong growth in its life insurance business.

The firm navigated an intensifying crackdown on risk in the financial sector by leveraging its extensive network and diverse product range to post its highest profit since 2003.

Written premiums for life insurance climbed 27 percent to 475.9 billion yuan, from 373.78 billion yuan, while profits from life and health insurance soared 44 percent, hitting 36.1 billion yuan.

Ping An made a net profit of 89.1 billion yuan ($14.08 billion) in the year ended December 2017, versus an average estimate of 75.5 billion yuan from 19 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

But the insurer, along with its other Chinese peers, face a tough year ahead as regulatory scrutiny on leveraged areas of business tightens amid an industry-wide crackdown on risk.

China said it will merge its banking and insurance regulators earlier this month in a long-awaited move to streamline and tighten oversight of the financial system in the world’s second-biggest economy.

In the first month of this year, however, Ping An weathered the impact of document 134 which prohibits the sale of short-term investment insurance products better than its peers, said Iris Tan, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar in a March note.

“Ping An is the least impacted thanks to its better-than-peer product mix and industry-leading agent productivity,” said Tan.

China’s insurance firms saw their net operating cash flow slump 65 percent last year, a source told Reuters, underscoring the challenges facing the sector as it reels from a state-led crackdown on sales of risky investment products.

Shares of Ping An Insurance closed up 0.4 percent in Shanghai on Tuesday ahead of the results, against a 0.08 percent rise for the broader market.

($1 = 6.3293 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Engen Tham and Shu Zhang Additional reporting by Matthew Miller Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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