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India's Life Insurance Sector Posts 16% Growth
[February 12, 2009]

India's Life Insurance Sector Posts 16% Growth

(BestWire Services Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) India's life insurance industry posted 16% growth in premium income to 1.31 trillion rupees (US$26.85 billion) in the first three quarters of the 2008 fiscal year, which ends in March 2009.

Private nonlife insurance companies posted 20% growth in new business while the main public (state-run) life insurer, Life Insurance Corporation of India [85485] saw a 15% drop in premiums, according to India's Life Insurance Council.

Among the top 10 life insurance companies, SBI Life [90253], Reliance Life [90255], Birla Sun Life [90264], Kotak Life [90261] and Metlife [90262] saw premiums rise by more than 50% in the first nine months of the fiscal year, ended Dec. 31.

India's life insurance sector is projected to grow at 20% in 2009, supported by rising demand for both single premium and unit-linked policies, said S.B. Mathur, secretary general of the council.

In the first nine months of the fiscal year, single premium policies generated 100 billion rupees, up 104% from 49 billion rupees a year earlier. Renewal premiums for regular unit-linked insurance policies rose 216% to 266 billion rupees, said the council. However, new premiums from regular unit-linked policies fell to 214 billion rupees from last year's 252 billion rupees.

The plunge in equity markets largely affected sales of unit-linked insurance policies, which comprised more than 50% of most insurers' portfolio, said the council. It added that India's life insurance sector will see "some changes in the last quarter when action in the sector picks up the most." Life Insurance Corporation of India "may show some upturn," supported by sales of its new single premium product, the council said.

Among the top five private life insurers, the council said new business premiums for Reliance Life grew by 66%, SBI Life by 57% and Birla Sun Life by 63% in the nine months ending in December.

"Although raking in the highest new business premium in the first nine months at 47 billion rupees, ICICI Prudential's [89580] growth registered a marginal decline of 3%. Even Bajaj Allianz Life [90263] saw a de-growth of 21% during the period, despite high new business premium," said the council in a report.

The council said SBI Life's new business premiums were 37 billion rupees. Reliance Life's new business premiums stood at 23 billion rupees, accounting for 10% of market share.

(By Iris Lai, Hong Kong bureau manager: [email protected])

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