Ping An CFO Says Insurer's Strategy Different From Anbang's

  • Ping An `very cautious' on overseas investments, CFO Yao says
  • Yao says company's share price `definitely undervalued'

Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. Chief Financial Officer Jason Yao said that China’s second-biggest insurer has a “very different” investment strategy from smaller rival Anbang Insurance Group Co., which has embarked on an aggressive overseas acquisition push.

While Ping An has recently started looking into overseas assets in the U.S. and Europe amid expectations of a weakening Chinese yuan, “we’re still at a very cautious pace,” Yao said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Yvonne Man on Wednesday. “We apparently have very different investment strategies,” he said.

Anbang, which last year acquired New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel, is stepping up its overseas buying spree this year. The closely held acquisitive insurer agreed to pay $6.5 billion for 16 U.S. luxury resorts and hotels from Blackstone Group LP, according to people with knowledge of the matter, and on Monday emerged as the leader of a consortium bidding for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

Ping An’s pace of acquisitions hasn’t been as aggressive. The insurer bought the Lloyd’s of London building in 2013 and Tower Place in the English capital for 419 million euros ($465 million) in January last year. The Shenzhen-based insurer owned 4.8 trillion yuan ($736 billion) of assets as of Dec. 31, which compares to Beijing-based Anbang’s 1.9 trillion yuan.

“We operate as an insurance company, traditional insurance company, and we do asset liability matching,” Yao said. “We look for long-term assets which can match our long-term liabilities.”

‘Definitely Undervalued’

Ping An rose 0.6 percent to HK$35.20 in Hong Kong trading as of 2:21 p.m. local time, trimming this year’s decline to 18 percent, after reporting a 38 percent jump in full-year profit on Tuesday. Net income climbed to 54.2 billion yuan from 39.3 billion yuan a year earlier, as total investment income nearly doubled, the company said.

“We still deliver very robust and solid business growth and profit,” Yao said. “Value sometimes deviates from price, but I think overall, from my perspective, I think the stock is currently definitely undervalued.”

Ping An is trading at a price-to-earnings ratio of 8.66 times, compared with about 10 times for its bigger rival, China Life Insurance Co.

— With assistance by Dingmin Zhang

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