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Ping An Insurance says coronavirus may impact business

Ping An

(Reuters) - Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd., China's largest insurer by market value, said on Thursday that the coronavirus may have an impact on its business.

Ping An's comments on the virus were included in its annual results, where the company reported a 39% increase in annual net profit on the strength of its retail business, but missed expectations.

The coronavirus outbreak in China has caused widespread disruption to businesses and factory production, raising worries about the country's economic outlook as growth is expected to slow sharply in the first quarter.

The virus "may affect the quality or the yields of the credit assets and investment assets of the group in a degree," Ping An said in its annual report, adding that the extent of the impact would depend on how long the epidemic lasts among other factors.

Ping An, seen by regulators as the only Asian insurer of global stature, made a net profit of 149.4 billion Chinese yuan ($21.3 billion) in the year ended December 2019, versus a 107.4 billion CNY profit in 2018.

That compared with the 157.6 billion CNY Refinitiv-compiled SmartEstimate based on a survey with analysts.

Profits were driven by strong retail customer growth.

Operating profit from Ping An's retail business rose 25.7% to 122.8 billion CNY in 2019, from 97.7 billion yuan in 2018. Meanwhile numbers of retail customers were up 11.2% from the beginning of 2019 for the year.