Allianz and Axa see rise in profits
Europe’s top two insurers at least maintained their dividends for the past year, helping allay concerns that insurer payouts were being threatened by a malign combination of low bond yields and tighter regulatory requirements.
Germany’s Allianz kept its payout steady at €4.50 per share, while French rival Axa raised its shareholder reward 4 per cent to 0.72 cent, easing fears about the sustainability of insurance sector payouts highlighted by a surprise cut on Wednesday from Britains Royal Sun Alliance.
Elsewhere in Europe, reinsurer Swiss Re set out plans for a hefty special dividend and announced a 17 per cent rise in its regular yearly payment.
Allianz chief financial officer Dieter Wemmer (pictured, left)defended the company’s decision to pay out 40 per cent of earnings against some criticism it could afford to dole out even more.
“The 40 per cent is a very solid and sustainable number,” Mr Wemmer said, adding that Allianz’s main competitors also were paying dividends around this level.
Allianz and Axa also flagged improvements in their asset management businesses and the possibility of an uptick in global growth.
“There seem to be first signs of stability in the euro zone and some observers expect the world economy to regain a bit of momentum towards the end of the year,” Michael Diekmann (pictured), chief executive said.
Axa also sounded an optimistic note, with chief financial officer Gerald Harlin telling reporters that 2012 “was the year that growth returned”.
Allianz beat full-year earnings expectations on the back of a strong performance in its general insurance division. Fourth-quarter net profit of €1.22 billion. The German group said it expected operating profit in 2013 of €9.2 billion, plus or minus €500 million given the uncertainty around natural disasters and market volatility. – (Reuters)