Direct Line in Talks to Sell Italy, Germany Units; Shares Surge

August 1, 2014

Direct Line Insurance Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest home and motor insurer, said it was in talks to sell its units in Germany and Italy. The shares climbed the most since its initial public offering in October 2012.

The discussions came amid a strategic review of units abroad and there is no guarantee that the sales will take place, Chief Financial Officer John Reizenstein said on a conference call with journalists today. Reizenstein spoke after the firm increased its interim dividend 4.8 percent to 4.4 pence and declared a special interim dividend of 10 pence.

Italy and Germany “are great businesses, have got strong positions and perform well, but there is a question whether they might be worth more to someone else,” he said. “We have decided to explore potential disposals of the operations and discussions are taking place with a number of parties.”

Direct Line climbed as much as 3.9 percent to 296 pence [$4.98] in London trading, the biggest increase in three months. The shares were up 3.7 percent at 8:18 a.m.

Operating profit from continuing operations fell to £249.1 million [$419.1 million] due to weather related claims from the first two months of the year, the company said in a statement.

“We delivered good results in the first half of 2014, despite major weather events and competitive markets,” Chief Executive Officer Paul Geddes said in the statement. “Our performance has also allowed us to continue to invest in the future of our business.”

Shares of Direct Line have rallied 20 percent so far this year, making the firm the best performing U.K. general insurer on the FTSE 350 Index.

 

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