Ping An Insurance says Hong Kong important hub despite mass protests
By Julie Zhu and Engen Tham
HONG KONG/SHANGHAI, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China, the country's largest insurer by market value, said on Friday Hong Kong remains an important hub despite escalating mass protests, a day after it posted its strongest half-year profit growth in over a decade.
Ten weeks of confrontations between police and pro-democracy groups have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, and have presented the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping in his seven years in power.
"This year we have even more companies in Hong Kong than last year," Tan told Reuters in an interview, adding the insurer has five different entities in the city.
Ping An, the only Asian insurer deemed globally systemically important by regulators, on Thursday reported a net profit of 97.68 billion yuan ($13.90 billion) for the six months to June, versus 58.1 billion yuan a year earlier.
The 68.1% rise marks the fastest half-year profit growth since at least 2007, calculations based on Refinitiv data show.
The insurer welcomed 20.09 million new customers over January to June, and plans to double-down on growing its retail customer yield, Tan said. Ping An plans to further cross-sell among its existing customer base and mine its internet channels for new buyers, she added.
"We expect more and more new customers (to be) converting from our internet customers to financial services customers.
"That's one set of growth I think we'll continue to push through," she added.
Ping An's gross written premiums rose 9.4% to 446.48 billion yuan, versus 408.19 billion yuan a year earlier.
Trading volume for Ping An-backed Lufax's wealth management products in the first half was down 47.3%.
Last month, Reuters reported that Lufax, China's largest online wealth management platform, plans to exit its once-core peer-to-peer lending business.
($1 = 7.0291 Chinese yuan)