Please forgive me the horrible pun, but life has been good to China Life
Earlier today, the company, officially known as China Life Insurance Company Ltd., announced results that beat Street expectations. The good news reaffirmed my belief that the stock remains a core holding in any diversified China portfolio.
For the six months ended June 30, 2006, China Life reported revenue of $9.1 billion, up 47% from last year. (For currency translation purposes, $1 equals 7.976 yuan.) The jump was driven by a 28% increase in gross written premiums and policies, a nice 45% jump in investment income, and a mark-to-market gain of $722 million in the value of its equity holdings.
Pretty impressive revenue growth for a supposedly stodgy insurance company, eh? And China Life's bottom-line results were equally notable. For the first half of 2006, the company reported that net profits had risen to roughly $1.13 billion, a 72% gain over last year's period, and 5% ahead of Street estimates. In addition to strong revenue growth, profitability was enhanced by tight expense control that saw net margins climb to 12.4%, a 180-basis-point increase over the first half of 2005.
If near-term operating results were the only positive, investors should be happy campers, but China Life also continues to post strong gains in two areas critical to the company's long-term prospects: market-share growth and the ability to increase its investment yields.
For the six-month period, China Life reported that its share of the Chinese life insurance market increased to 49.4%, up from 44% at the end of 2005. The company also reported that its investment yield rose to 4.24% (4.54% if you exclude cash), compared with a 3.9% return in 2005.
Simply put, China Life is firing on all cylinders: showing impressive top- and bottom-line growth, gaining market share, and improving its all-important investment yield. I would strongly suggest that investors consider picking up shares of China's premium life-insurance player.
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Fool contributor Will Frankenhoff does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. The Fool has a disclosure policy.