UPDATE 1-Ping An Insurance sees 4.5% Q1 profit gain as economy recovers

(Adds quotes, more details)

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, April 22 (Reuters) - Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China Ltd saw a 4.5% rise in first-quarter net profit as offline sales recovered from a coronavirus-induced slump, China’s largest insurer by market value reported on Thursday.

Profit rose to 27.2 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) for the January-March quarter, it said in a statement filed to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Last year Ping An suffered its first annual profit fall since 2008.

The group earlier reported a 5.4% fall in first-quarter gross premium income to 243.8 billion yuan.

“China achieved strong results in the prevention and containment of the epidemic with the rollout and inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines in the first three months of 2021,” Ping An said in the report.

“Ping An’s traditional offline business development gradually resumed. However... the demand for long-term protection business remained depressed.”

Gross written premiums at Ping An Insurance fell 5.4% to 243.94 billion yuan in the first quarter from 257.94 billion yuan a year earlier, while the number of retail customers increased 1% to more than 220 million.

Investment income fell 7.8% to 23.9 billion yuan with a 0.3 percentage point cut in annualised yield, driven by volatile market interest rates and increased impairment provisions, the company said.

Ping An made provisions totalling 18.2 billion yuan for impairment losses and adjusted the valuations of investments related to China Fortune Land Development in the first three months of 2021, leading to a 10 billion yuan reduction on net profit.

Its banking unit, Ping An Bank, posted a 18.5% year-on-year rise in net profit for the January-March quarter. (Reporting by Cheng Leng in Beijing, Zhang Yan and Engen Tham in Shanghai; editing by Stephen Coates, Jason Neely and Nick Macfie)