August 21, 2018 / 9:44 AM / in 2 months

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Ping An Insurance posts best 6-month profit in decade on strong customer growth

(Corrects milestone about IPO size of Ping An’s Good Doctor in 10th paragraph)

* H1 profit 58.10 bln yuan vs 43.43 bln yuan year-ago

* Retail customers grew 25.2 pct in H1 year-on-year

* Premium income 408.19 bln yuan, up 20 percent

SHANGHAI, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Ping An Insurance Group Co of China , the country’s largest insurer by market value, on Tuesday reported its biggest half-yearly profit in at least a decade on robust customer growth.

The results underline strength in Ping An’s business versus smaller players, amid a sector-wide crackdown on risk that has led to China’s chief insurance regulator being investigated for graft and others being reprimanded for overseas acquisitions.

For the six months ended June, its net profit was 58.10 billion yuan ($8.45 billion), up 34 percent from a year ago, according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.

This was its best half-yearly performance since at least 2007, Thomson Reuters data shows.

Its gross written premiums grew 20 percent to 408.19 billion yuan, from 341.39 billion yuan in the year-ago period.

A rise in customer numbers and products held per client contributed strongly to the insurer’s underlying strength.

Retail customers grew 25.2 percent in the first half year-on-year, hitting 179 million, with each customer holding 2.39 contracts on average, up 4.8 percent.

Ping an, one of nine insurers globally and the only Asian one designated as a systemically important insurer by global regulators, is benefiting from its diverse revenue sources such as asset management and banking.

Net profit for Ping An’s life and health business rose 43.3 percent to 33.79 billion yuan.

Ping An’s Good Doctor online healthcare platform raised $1.12 billion in its IPO late April, pricing its shares at the top of its range, in what was Hong Kong’s largest float for the year at the time.

Profit from Ping An’s banking arm came in at 13.4 billion yuan in the first half, up 6.5 percent.

Ping An Bank, like others in the industry, has been shifting to retail banking in an attempt to bolster returns as corporate loans become more risky.

“We believe Ping An will soon go through a period of rapid financial customer expansion, as both internet customers and financial customers have grown to enormous sizes,” brokerage Morningstar said in a report.

But Morningstar also sees agent growth at Ping An slowing to 15 percent over the next five years, from around 25 percent in the past five, as competition grows for high-quality agents.

Ping An’s Hong Kong shares closed up 1.44 percent on Tuesday at HK$70.35 before results were announced, in a broader market that ended up with slight gains. ($1 = 6.8740 Chinese yuan) (Reporting By Engen Tham and Shu Zhang; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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