The John Keells group insurance subsidiary, Union Assurance PLC reported earnings of Rs.108.3 million or Rs.1.84 a share for the January-March quarter, rising as much as 77 percent from a year earlier supported by modest growth in life premiums.
But much of the gains were made through the investment income and substantial decline in net fair value losses, the interim results released to the Colombo Stock Exchange showed.
The gross written premiums (GWP) rose by 18 percent to Rs.2.3 billion from the same quarter last year amid challenging operating environment.
After the sale of a 78 percent stake in the group’s general business to Fairfax Asia Ltd, the Asian subsidiary of Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings PLC, in 2014, the company has been solely operating in the life insurance space.
On February 28, 2017, Union Assurance General Limited and Fairfirst Insurance Limited were amalgamated with the latter now being the continuing entity of which a 22 percent stake is held by Union Assurance PLC.
The share of profits from Fairfirst Insurance to the group was Rs.54 million, up from Rs.28.8 million during the corresponding period a year earlier.
Life insurance business is somewhat prone to economic cycles as affordability of premiums becomes a concern with changing disposable incomes of the policyholders.
Life insurance penetration in Sri Lanka still stands below 2.0 percent of the gross domestic product.
Meanwhile, the company’s net investment income rose by 31 percent year-on-year (YoY) to Rs.888.2 million, probably helped by the higher interest rates in the market.
The company has held-to-maturity financial investments of Rs.15.6 billion by end-March 2017, mostly consisting of government and corporate bonds.
The net fair value losses fell to Rs.50 million from Rs.375 million a year earlier providing a significant boost to the March performance.
The company’s available-for-sale investments were Rs.6.7 billion, up from Rs.6.0 billion at the beginning of the year.
The company also made a net realised gain of just Rs.3.0 million from a loss of Rs.100 million during the same quarter, last year.
Meanwhile, the company paid Rs.512.2 million worth of net insurance benefits and claims during the three months, up from Rs.318.7 million during the corresponding quarter in 2016.
By March 31, 2017, John Keells Holdings had a 86.51 percent stake in Union Assurance while group company Whittall Boustead Limited held a 7.4 percent stake being the second largest shareholder. The public free float was at 6.1 percent.