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How a $100 Billion South Korean Insurer Became a Penny Stock

  • Hanwha Life is among worst MSCI Korea stocks over past year
  • 40% of life insurance policies guarantee high premiums: FSS
General Images of CJ Group and Hanwha Life Insurance As Government Probe On Tax Evasion Reports Continue

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

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Insurers the world over have been walloped by evaporating investment returns, but those in South Korea have been hit particularly hard. Just consider this: The nation’s second-largest life insurer became a penny stock this month.

Hanwha Life Insurance Co. has fallen 64% over the past year, and its shares touched the equivalent of about 71 cents on March 23. Its price-to-book value is just 0.1 times, a fraction the 0.8 average for European insurers or 0.9 among U.S. counterparts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.