Great Eastern's profit surges, eyes growth in Indonesia

Q4 net earnings more than double to $423.6m; it also plans to expand footprint in Indonesia market

Insurer Great Eastern is looking to expand its footprint in the Indonesia market, and expects to be among the top 10 in that country in the next five years.

"I think top 10 would be a good aspiration for us," said group chief executive Khor Hock Seng during a results briefing yesterday.

The expansion will likely come through the bancassurance channels offered by OCBC Bank's distribution network in Indonesia, as well as through other partnerships with banks there.

The group's net profit more than doubled to $423.6 million for the fourth quarter of last year, compared with $195.2 million in the previous corresponding period, on stronger insurance sales as well as gains from the sale of investments and changes in fair value, said the insurance arm of OCBC.

On a per share basis, Great Eastern's profit attributable to shareholders rose to 89 cents for the three months ended Dec 31, up from 42 cents a year earlier.

For the full year, the group's net profit surged to $1.16 billion for fiscal year 2017, from $589.3 million the previous year.

Great Eastern's earnings were boosted by stronger insurance sales, gains from the sale of investments and changes in fair value. PHOTO: GREAT EASTERN

Operating profit from Great Eastern's insurance business also rose 37 per cent to $156.1 million for the quarter, and 19 per cent to $598.7 million for the year.

In addition, the group's total weighted new sales grew 36 per cent to $471.7 million for the quarter, driven by increased contributions from Singapore across both agency and bancassurance channels, the company said.

Meanwhile, the group's new business embedded value, a measure of long-term economic profitability, rose 35 per cent to $204.4 million for the three months ended Dec 31.

Commenting on the group's financial results for fiscal year 2017, Mr Khor said: "The Great Eastern Group delivered a strong set of results on all fronts. In Singapore... the strong contributions from agency stemmed from a significant increase in productivity, as well as our success in recruiting 800 new representatives."



    GROSS PREMIUMS: $12.56 billion (+31%)

    NET PROFIT: $1.16 billion (+96%)

    TOTAL DIVIDENDS PER SHARE: 70 cents (+40%)

He added that the group has built a strong foundation that will position it to "deliver profitable growth and long-term sustainable value" for shareholders.

The board has recommended a final dividend of 50 cents per ordinary share, up from 40 cents last year, and a special dividend of 10 cents per ordinary share.

Including the interim dividend of 10 cents per share paid in August last year, total dividends for fiscal year 2017 would amount to 70 cents, up from 50 cents for fiscal year 2016.

Great Eastern's shares yesterday ended higher at $29.37.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2018, with the headline 'Great Eastern's profit surges, eyes growth in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe