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China's PICC denies Lloyd's syndicate acquisition plans

An executive of People's Insurance Co. (Group) of China Ltd.'s PICC Property & Casualty Co. Ltd. unit denied a report that the insurer is looking at acquiring a syndicate platform at Lloyd's of London

The U.K.-based Insurance Times reported in February that PICC was considering either establishing a Lloyd's platform or acquiring one, but Shen Dong, a vice president at PICC P&C, told S&P Global Market Intelligence that there are no such plans "at the moment."

"We studied [the possibilities of] acquisition in the past years, but we feel the timing is not ripe yet," Shen said at a March 25 press briefing in Hong Kong, adding that PICC will nevertheless seek to deepen its ties with the Lloyd's market.

Meanwhile, Zhang Xiaoli, another PICC P&C vice president, said the general insurance unit is targeting premium growth in line with market performance in 2019, although it outperformed the segment average during the first two months of the year. Overall gross written premium for the two months was up 23% to 78.47 billion yuan.

Zhang said a large amount of renewal business was recorded in January and February for government subsidized nonauto insurance business lines, pushing up premium growth. PICC P&C also stepped up its efforts to sell auto insurance, Zhang said, adding that he expects the renewal business effect to gradually diminish for the rest of the year.

At a news conference in Beijing, meanwhile, PICC group Chairman Miao Jianmin said so-called kickoff sales, a term generally applied to first-quarter life insurance business, remain important for both the group's major units, including PICC Life Insurance Co. Ltd. The life business saw gross written premium rise 3.2% year over year to 46.01 billion yuan during January and February.

Miao said annualized new premium for PICC Life grew 42% year over year in the first two months, meaning that the quality of the business written improved from the year-ago period.

"We emphasize on value growth for life insurance business," Miao said. "So this year, our evaluation on life insurance focuses on annualized new premium growth and new business value growth."

PICC the same day reported full-year 2018 profit attributable to equity holders of the company of 12.91 billion yuan, down from 16.10 billion yuan in 2017. Gross written premiums rose year over year to 498.61 billion yuan from 476.45 billion yuan, and net written premiums increased to 468.99 billion yuan from 448.58 billion yuan.

As of March 22, US$1 was equivalent to 6.72 Chinese yuan.