FinanceAsia has determined Asia ex-Japan's largest life insurance companies by their total premium income for 2003. Our top 50 list is the first to be independently published for several years and conveys which companies are attracting the most business and generating the most revenues.

After a seven-year period of sector-wide fluctuation, 2003 will be remembered by life insurers as one of the more stable in recent years. Insolvencies levelled out and the larger insurance businesses witnessed dramatic premium growth for both domestic and foreign life insurers.

In China, life insurance penetration went from strength to strength, For the world's most populated nation, total written premiums edged close to Rmb400 billion for the year and the sector enjoyed some much needed recapitalization through the China Life and Ping An listings.

And in India, the market has been experiencing similar premium growth and 2003 will be remembered by the industry as the year when the foreign joint ventures took on the dominant Life Insurance Company of India (LIC).

Overall, 2003 was a robust year for premium income across the region.

When looking at the size of a life insurance company, the amount of money generated by total gross premiums reflects the breadth and size of any given organization. The total premium number reflects the combined new and retained business deriving from life insurance.

The standings (see across) were sourced from annual reports, statistics provided by regional insurance organizations and from research conducted by numerous insurance consultants.

After the local currency premiums for 2003 were established, the number was exchanged in US dollars, using current exchange rates.

In compiling our ranking, we excluded the total premiums of Japanese life insurers (and feature separately), but did add the Asia-Pacific's most established market, Australia. 

Japan, which has the world's second largest insurance market, is also home to Asia's largest life insurers by premium. We excluded the Japanese life companies on the basis that it would have drastically reduced the number of regional insurers in the top 50 ranking. In fact, when you add together the total premium income of just the top five Japanese life insurers you reach a number not dissimilar for the top 50 for non-Japan Asian ($128 billion for the top five from Japan, versus $144 billion for the top 50 from non-Japan Asia).

Australian-operating companies were included to gauge where Asian life offices stood in comparison to an extremely mature sector. Although many Australian life insurers sit in the upper portions of the standings, the total premium volumes will continue to be dwarfed by the increased inflows into Asian life books.

With half the market share of the Chinese market in its hand, it seems unsurprising that China Life was the largest life insurer in the region. The Beijing-based company is the indisputable driver for life growth in China and investor demand ensured the world's largest IPO in 2003.

South Korea's "big three" companies also faired well in 2003, all emerging in the top five. Although Samsung Life, Korea Life and Kyobo Life have lost market share to foreign players in recent years, the premium numbers suggest that they are among Asia's best.

Taiwanese and Hong Kong based companies were also well represented on the list.

The FinanceAsia list of Asia's top 50 life insurance companies demonstrates an industry that has repaired much of the damage from the 1997 financial crisis and is now on a concerted growth path.

The Top Five at a Glance:

  Company Country Founded Domestic assets ($) Market share Salesforce Controlling shareholder Market Cap ($) CEO
1 China Life China 1949 39,763,874,776 45.9% 650,000 Chinese Government 14,553 million Wang Xianzhang
2 Samsung Life South Korea 1963 48,396,000,000 36% 70,000 Lee Family N/A Jung-Choong Bae
3 Korea Life South Korea 1946 26,601,061,099 18% 28,500 Hanwha Consortium N/A Chan-Byung Bae
4 Cathay Life Taiwan 1962 42,798,625,000 21.1% 30,000 Tsai Family 13,636 million Tsai Hong-tu
5 Kyobo Life South Korea 1958 27,811,055,964 16.5% 29,500 Shin Family N/A Chan-Jae Shin

The FinanceAsia 50 Top Insurers

  Country Company Name: Total Premiums 2003: ($)
1 China China Life 19,576,200,000
2 Korea Samsung Life 15,730,749,354
3 Korea Korea Life/Daehan Life 8,085,357,450
4 Taiwan Cathay Life 7,660,360,000
5 Korea Kyobo 7,436,520,241
6 China Ping An 7,242,400,000
7 Australia AMP 5,456,463,900
8 Taiwan AIG/Nan Shan 4,818,984,104
9 Australia NAB/MLC 4,742,703,350
10 China China Pacific 4,638,900,000
11 Taiwan Shin Kong 3,912,094,485
12 India LIC India 3,532,537,961
13 Australia ING/ANZ 3,079,677,500
14 Taiwan China Post 3,003,744,635
15 Singapore Great Eastern 2,974,933,804
16 Taiwan ING Antai 2,609,614,818
17 Australia Colonial/CBA 2,211,570,760
18 Australia Westpac 2,211,570,760
19 China New China Life 2,075,500,000
20 Australia National Mutual/AXA 2,065,195,500
21 Korea Allianz Life Korea 1,830,232,558
22 Hong Kong AIA Hong Kong 1,761,856,154
23 Hong Kong Manulife Financial (HK) 1,666,837,624
24 China Tai Kang Life 1,611,800,000
25 Thailand AIA Thailand 1,554,225,499
26 Korea ING Life (Kr.) 1,452,713,178
27 Taiwan Fubon Life 1,285,062,758
28 Korea Dong Yang 1,239,448,751
29 Korea Shinhan 1,231,869,078
30 Australia Macquarie Life 1,168,103,560
31 Korea SK Life 1,137,898,363
32 Taiwan Mass Mutual Mercuries 1,095,125,322
33 Korea Hungkuk 1,051,507,321
34 Hong Kong HSBC Life (HK) 1,041,495,769
35 Taiwan Kuo Hua 998,108,036
36 Taiwan Allianz President Taiwan 972,287,331
37 Taiwan China Life Taiwan 964,312,225
38 Hong Kong AXA China 884,615,385
39 Taiwan Taiwan life 825,589,744
40 Korea Kumho 818,690,784
41 Korea AIA Korea 793,023,256
42 Hong Kong Prudential (HK) 783,241,795
43 Taiwan PCA (tw.) 767,038,965
44 Australia Citicorp Life (Au) 705,789,620
45 Australia Zurich Life (Au) 653,616,260
46 Korea Prudential (kr) 638,845,823
47 Australia Challenger Life 589,848,820
48 Korea Met Life Korea 571,231,697
49 Thailand Thai Life Insurance 543,010,281
50 Taiwan Aegon (Tw.) 493,207,331
Total     144,195,711,910

Japan's Top Five Life Insurance Companies

Company Total Premium 2003 ($):
Nippon Life 45,310,000,000
Dai-Ichi 29,634,000,000
Sumitomo 24,326,663,001
Meiji * 18,100,000,000
Yasuda * 10,794,000,000
Total 128,164,663,001
*Meiji and Yasuda merged.