March 27, 2019 / 11:45 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-China Life 2018 profit plunges on poor stock market returns

* China Life annual profit falls 64.7 pct y/y

* Gross investment returns drop 30 pct y/y amid weak stock market (Adds bullet points, details)

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG, March 27 (Reuters) - China Life Insurance Co reported a 64.7 percent drop in 2018 net profit on Wednesday, in line with its warning issued in January, due to a sharp decline in investment returns from weak stock markets.

The country’s second-biggest insurer by market value, said net profit fell to 11.40 billion yuan ($1.7 billion) last year from 32.25 billion yuan a year earlier.

In 2018, gross income on investment declined 30 percent from a year earlier to 95.15 billion yuan, which was mainly caused by a 36 percent drop in net returns from equity investments amid the overall volatility and downward trend of the stock market.

China Life’s gross written premiums were up 4.7 percent to 535.83 billion yuan.

China Life warned in January that its 2018 net profit would fall by between 50 percent and 70 percent.

China’s benchmark share indexes were among the world’s worst performing equity indicators last year, losing around a quarter of their value as the escalating Sino-U.S. trade war put further pressure on the slowing Chinese economy.

Analysts were expecting a net profit of 16.77 billion yuan in 2018, according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate. SmartEstimates give more weight to recent estimates by analysts.

China Life’s mainland shares edged up 0.33 percent on Wednesday ahead of the results announcement. They have gained more than 30 percent so far in 2019 against an above 20 percent year-to-date rise of the blue-chip CSI300 index, giving the company a market value of 692.2 billion yuan.

$1 = 6.7235 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting By Shu Zhang and Julie Zhu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and David Evans

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