February 12, 2017 / 3:49 AM / a year ago

China regulator warns insurers over investment risks

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s insurance firms face possible risks from “irrational” stock investments and large-scale overseas mergers and acquisitions, the state-run People’s Daily on Sunday quoted a top regulatory official as saying.

In a shift away from low-yielding corporate bonds, Chinese insurers, led by privately owned Anbang Insurance Group and Ping An Insurance Group (601318.SS), have snapped up real estate, bank and other insurance company stakes at home and overseas.

    Insurance firms will be encouraged to make long-term investments and better serve the real economy, the paper quoted Chen Wenhui, vice chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, as telling a meeting of officials.

    “2017 may be a very difficult year for the use of insurance funds,” Chen said, adding that authorities would tackle “hidden dangers” in the industry, while companies needed to “maintain a high degree of vigilance” over risks.

    Chen cited “regulatory arbitrage” activities as a problem, in addition to the “irrational” stake bidding and large-scale cross-border activities, the paper added.

    Reporting by Kevin Yao and Hou Xiangming; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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