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China's insurance business loses momentum in 2012

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BEIJING, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The growth of Chinese insurance companies' premium income slowed in 2012 after decades of robust increases, according to the country's insurance business regulator on Thursday.

In 2012, total premium income of China's insurers topped 1.55 trillion yuan (247 billion U.S. dollars), up 8 percent year on year, according to Xiang Junbo, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC).

The growth rate is in "obvious contrast" with the 20 percent-plus average yearly increase in the past two decades, said Xiang at a CIRC work conference.

Affected by an external environment, business has been dragged down by an intrinsic lack of innovation and of product competitiveness, as well as problems in sales channels, said Xiang.

Particularly, life insurers, which are key players of the country's insurance industry, registered a meager growth of 2.4 percent last year in premium income, according to CIRC data.

As certain life insurance companies were cash-strapped in 2012 due to weak solvency, the CIRC said that the entire business will hold firmly to the bottom line to control risks in 2013.

Calling 2013 "perhaps the most difficult year" of China's insurance business, Xiang said the primary task of the industry will be to maintain a steady growth.

Several policy-based insurance trials introduced last year to benefit agriculture and people's livelihoods are expected to pay off in the coming year, he added.

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