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Life insurers see 'moderate' premium rise

PREMIUM growth at China's life insurers will "moderate" this year as the global financial crisis deepens and the nation's economic expansion cools, eroding demand, the industry regulator said.

A "rapid deceleration" in the sales of investment-type products over bank counters that started in the fourth quarter last year will also contribute to the slowdown, while improving quality, China Insurance Regulatory Commission said in a statement sent to Bloomberg News.

Growth in bancassurance sales at China Life Insurance Co, the nation's biggest insurer, and peers surged last year as insurers fought for market share and banks sought commissions as lending slowed under government curbs. Premium growth also helped bolster profits as a 66-percent stock-market slump cut insurers' investment returns.

China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co, the nation's No. 3 insurer, yesterday said premiums hit 93.9 billion yuan (US$13.7 billion) last year.

"The risk of a rapid slowdown in life premiums in the first quarter or half of this year does exist given last year's base," said Olive Xia, an analyst at Core Pacific Yamaichi in Shanghai. "Whether that will have a major impact on insurers' profits depends on whether they can tilt their products toward more profits."


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