Insurer AIA upbeat for new sales growth this year as China COVID-19 curbs scrapped

Insurer AIA upbeat for new sales growth this year as China COVID-19 curbs scrapped
FILE PHOTO: AIA Group logo is pictured on a smartphone in front of an electronic display showing stock graph in this illustration taken, December 4, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

HONG KONG: Insurer AIA Group Ltd has seen growth in its China business so far this year and is optimistic about a recovery in new sales from a disappointing 2022 now that harsh COVID-19 restrictions have been scrapped.

Its value of new business (VONB), which measures expected profits from new premiums and is a key gauge for future growth, slid 8 per cent to US$3.09 billion last year.

In mainland China – its largest market accounting for about 30 per cent of new sales – VONB plunged 17.3 per cent.

That said, in the second half of 2022, new business momentum for the Asia-focused insurer improved as the impact of an initial Omicron wave subsided and normal activities resumed.

“Across the portfolio, we’re seeing growth coming back,” Chief Financial Officer Garth Jones told Reuters during an interview on Friday.

Jones also noted that AIA’s China business had logged triple-digit percentage growth for a portion of the second half of 2022 before a wave of Omicron infections hit in November.

AIA’s Hong Kong business saw VONB climb 4 per cent last year, helped by growth at its Macau branch as well as its agency and partnership channels.

The insurer, which has a market value of some US$127 billion, has traditionally benefited from mainland Chinese visitors crossing into Hong Kong seeking better insurance policies.

China and Hong Kong removed COVID-19 curbs for mainland travellers in early February and visitor numbers are expected to pick up rapidly.

“We see very encouraging signs in the first couple of months (of this year) and strong momentum continuing in Hong Kong that give us optimism for the future,” Jones said.

AIA declared a final dividend of 113.40 Hong Kong cents per share, 5 per cent higher than a year earlier.

Source: Reuters