Great Eastern sees 63% fall in Q2 net profit

Great Eastern Holdings aims to build on a recent organisational overhaul to develop its group and general insurance business as well, said group chief executive Khor Hock Seng yesterday.

Mr Khor told a results briefing: "We've reorganised ourselves to support key business strategies, and are looking to grow in general and group insurance. The plans started in the second quarter. We have brought in a person to head our general insurance under the group. It's still early days, but our structure gives us the focus."

Mr Khor said the board has identified that segment as one of its key drivers.

The firm's management team has been revamped since Mr Khor took over last November.

Mr Jimmy Tong joined the insurer in May as the managing director of general and group insurance while Mr Ronnie Tan was appointed group chief financial officer in July.

Great Eastern reported a 63 per cent fall in net profit to $102.2 million in the second quarter, due in part to a $18.7 million loss on the disposal of its Vietnam subsidiary, unfavourable financial markets and low interest rates.

  • AT A GLANCE

  • NET PROFIT: $102.2 million (-63%)

    GROSS PREMIUMS: $2.28 billion (-25%)

The $48.2 million sale of the Vietnam unit to FWD Life Insurance Company (Bermuda) - part of the insurance arm of Pacific Century Group chaired by Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li - was announced last month (June).

New business embedded value - a measure of long-term profitability - grew 24 per cent to $105.1 million for the three months to June 30, and total weighted new sales rose 23 per cent to $245.7 million from a year earlier.

Mr Tan also noted that profit margins have improved from the first to the second quarter with the insurer pleased that "strong growth has been achieved without compromising profit margin". Operating profit inched up 2 per cent to $134.6 million.

Extra returns over promised payouts from the non-participating fund are retained as profits by Great Eastern.

Quarterly gross premiums were up 25 per cent to $2.28 billion. Profits from the shareholders' fund for the year plunged 89 per cent to $19.2 million, mainly owing to the loss on the Vietnam sale.

The fall was also attributed to the fact that the same quarter last year was boosted by a huge gain from Great Eastern's sale of part of its stake in New China Life Insurance Company.

Quarterly earnings per share was 22 cents, down from 58 cents a year ago, while net asset value per share was $13.08 as at June 30, marginally down from $13.16 as at Dec 31.

An interim tax-free dividend of 10 cents has been declared for the financial year ending Dec 31, to be paid on Sept 2.

Great Eastern was also pleased with recent news about the capital requirements being somewhat relaxed by Monetary Authority of Singapore, and noted "a lot of the industry feedback has been reflected".

The move would eventually benefit policyholders through better prices for products and asset allocation decisions by insurers. The results were announced before markets opened. Great Eastern shares closed 40 cents down at $21.40 yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Great Eastern sees 63% fall in Q2 net profit'. Print Edition | Subscribe