NU Online News Service, June 7, 1:40 p.m. – The seven biggest Japanese life insurers are reporting the equivalent of $14.2 billion in core profits for fiscal year 2001 on $138 billion in premium revenue, compared with $14.3 billion in core profits on $143 billion in premium revenue for 2000, according to figures from Sumitomo Life Insurance Company, Osaka.

The combined ratio of core business profits to total assets increased to 1.34%, from 1.29%, for all seven companies, but the amount of coverage in force fell 4.3%, to $8.3 trillion, Sumitomo Life says.

Japanese life insurance companies use a fiscal year that ends March 31.

Sumitomo based its currency translations on an exchange rate of $1=133.25 yen for both the 2000 and the 2001 results.

The seven companies included in the Sumitomo chart are Nippon Life Insurance Company, Osaka; Daiichi Mutual Life Insurance Company, Tokyo; Meiji Life Insurance Company, Tokyo; Yasuda Mutual Life Insurance Company, Tokyo; Sumitomo; Asahi Mutual Life Insurance Company, Tokyo; and Mitsui Life Insurance Company Ltd., Tokyo.

Daiichi was the only company in the top seven that brought in more premium revenue. Daiichi, the second biggest life insurer in terms of revenue and asset size, increased its premium revenue 8.5%, to $30 billion.

The amount of individual business in force fell at all seven companies, but three companies — Sumitomo, Asahi and Mitsui — managed to increase sales of new individual coverage.

The Tokyo office of Standard & Poor’s followed the release of the 2001 results with a report emphasizing that its outlook for the Japanese life industry remains negative, in spite of the stability of the large insurers’ core profits.

Investment losses on stock holdings wiped out most of the core operating profits, S&P says.

The 2001 results “pointed to continued business contraction and deteriorating financial strength as companies struggle with ultra low interest rates and a weak equity market,” S&P says.

S&P warns that some of the weakest Japanese life insurers could fail in the next nine months.