(Reuters) - AIA Group Ltd <1299.HK>, the world's third-largest life insurer by market value, posted a 27 percent increase in new business in the third quarter helped by strong sales in its main markets of China and Hong Kong, the company said in a statement.

China and Hong Kong together account for about half of new business growth globally at AIA, originally founded in Shanghai nearly 100 years ago and the first foreign insurer to be granted a license in China.

AIA's value of new business, which measures expected profits from new premiums and is a key gauge for future growth, rose to $689 million in the quarter ended August 31, up from $552 million a year ago, the company's statement to the stock exchange said.

The insurer's annualized new premiums jumped 44 percent in the third quarter to $1.33 billion, up from $936 million in the year-ago period.


Asia is a battleground for insurers such as AIA, Sun Life Financial <SLF.TO> and a host of local players who are attracted by the region's lower insurance penetration levels and faster growth rates for insurance premiums than in the Western markets.

Sun Life plans to expand into Singapore and Thailand as it looks to boost its presence in Asia where demand for insurance products is growing fast, a senior company executive told Reuters last week.

Insurers in Hong Kong have also benefited from a sharp jump in mainland Chinese visitors buying life insurance products in the Asian financial hub in the recent past, as they look to take advantage of the currency diversification option.

New insurance premiums from Chinese visitors in Hong Kong surged to HK$16.9 billion ($2.18 billion) in the second quarter, more than double the volume for the same period of 2015, Hong Kong government statistics showed last month.

(Reporting by Justin George Varghese and Sumeet Chatterjee; editing by Grant McCool and Diane Craft)

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