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Insurer posts loss in Q4

CHINA Pacific Insurance Group Co, the country's third-biggest life insurer, posted a 2.54-billion-yuan (US$371.7 million) net loss in the fourth quarter, as a slumping domestic stock market hammered its investment returns, the company reported over the weekend.

That compared with a 1.14-billion-yuan profit in the year-ago period and a 1.64-billion-yuan loss in the third quarter.

For the full year, earnings tumbled 80.6 percent to 1.34 billion yuan from 6.89 billion yuan a year earlier, in line with an estimate the firm issued in January and a sharp contrast with its nearly seven-fold surge in profit in 2007.

Pacific Insurance and rivals China Life Insurance Co and Ping An were hit last year by a severe slump in the domestic equity market.

The key Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 65 percent last year for the worst performance among the world's major stock markets.

Analysts expect Chinese insurers' earnings to improve this year as the stock market rebounds, fueled in part by hopes that government stimulus spending will spur an early recovery in the economy. Pacific Insurance is also sharpening its focus on traditional insurance products, which have shown steady growth in China's developing market, and placing less emphasis on investment-linked products.

Pacific Insurance last year postponed a plan to sell shares publicly in Hong Kong.

China Life posted a 42-percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, while Ping An saw a second straight quarterly loss due to its failed investment in Fortis.


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