AMP, a financial services company in Australia and New Zealand, has posted a net loss of A$344m for the full year ended 31 December 2016, compared to a profit of A$972m in 2015.

The bank attributed the loss to write-downs on its wealth protection and life insurance businesses.

The group’s annual underlying profit stood at A$486m, a 56.6% slump from A$1.12bn in the prior year.

The company’s Australian wealth protection unit recorded operating loss of A$415m in 2016, compared to earnings of A$185m in the last year.

Operating earnings at the Australian wealth management arm slid 2.2% to A$401m from A$410m a year ago, while operating earnings at AMP Capital increased 4.3% year-on-year to A$144m.

AMP CEO Craig Meller said: “The year saw strong results from AMP Capital, AMP Bank, New Zealand and a resilient performance from Wealth Management despite challenging market conditions. However, these results were overshadowed by a poor performance in Wealth Protection. The wealth protection market deteriorated in 2016 and we took action to re-set and stabilise our business.

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“Our strategy is focused on directing capital to areas of our portfolio that will deliver the strongest growth including Australian Wealth Management, AMP Capital and AMP Bank. International expansion is gaining momentum, particularly in China as well as in Europe and North America, where we are exporting our home-grown investment and pension expertise.”

In addition, the company also announced plans to return up to A$500m to shareholders through a share buyback.