* H1 net profit 16.42 bln yuan vs 12.24 bln yuan year prior
* Total H1 investment income down 14 pct at 48.8 bln yuan
* Net premiums 349 bln yuan vs 336 bln yuan year earlier (Adds further earnings details, analyst comments)
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Aug 23 (Reuters) - China Life Insurance Co Ltd , the country’s second-biggest insurer by market value, on Thursday said first-half net profit rose 34 percent on strong growth at its life and health insurance units.
Profit for January-June reached 16.42 billion yuan ($2.39 billion), from 12.24 billion yuan a year earlier. Total assets exceeded 3 trillion yuan for the first time, the insurer said.
The results indicate China Life, like other large insurers, is benefiting from a government crackdown on excessive use of leverage which is having a greater impact on smaller insurers.
China Life said net premiums earned in the first half of the year amounted to 348.99 billion yuan, versus 336.27 billion yuan a year prior.
Premium growth was particularly strong in the second quarter due in part to an annuity product launched in March - Sheng Shi Zhen Pin, featuring a short payment term, high cash value and attractive returns - Daiwa Capital Markets said in a research report.
“We understand that China Life saw positive QoQ (quarter-on-quarter) agent headcount expansion in 2Q18, helped by improved agent income and retention from the new product launch and increased expenses in agency channel,” Daiwa said.
China Life’s gross investment income fell 14 percent to 48.80 billion yuan amid a weaker equity market. ($1 = 6.8740 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Engen Tham and Shu Zhang; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Christopher Cushing)