Allianz may slow its share buyback program after the one announced this week to allow the German insurer to make small acquisitions, the group’s finance chief said on Friday after reporting a 19 percent rise in fourth quarter profit.
Allianz this week announced it would buy back shares for up to 1.5 billion euros ($1.69 billion) this year. But Chief Financial Officer Giulio Terzariol suggested the company may slow the pace of additional buybacks.
“I can never give a definitive answer, but if you ask me, I wouldn’t necessarily expect another new buyback in 2019,” Terzariol told Reuters.
Allianz embarked on buybacks for the first time two years ago under Chief Executive Oliver Baete as he sought to spend cash amid a dearth of alternatives. The Munich-based insurer bought back 3 billion euros in 2017, and again in 2018.
Shares were up 1.2 percent midday in Frankfurt, outperforming the benchmark DAX index, which was unchanged.
Allianz reported net profit rose 19 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, in line with expectations, and said it was aiming for a larger operating profit target in 2019.
Net profit attributable to shareholders of 1.697 billion euros compared with the 1.715 billion euro profit forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and was up from 1.427 billion euros a year earlier.
For 2018, Allianz earned 11.5 billion euros in operating profit, at the upper end of its targeted range of 11.1 billion euros, plus or minus 500 million euros. The insurer had already flagged that it was highly likely to come in above the midpoint of the range.
For 2019, Allianz said it is aiming for operating profit of 11.5 billion euros, plus or minus 500 million euros.
“Our healthy and well-diversified business makes us confident that we will continue to deliver a strong financial performance again this year,” finance chief Terzariol said in a statement.
Allianz and the insurance sector are bouncing back from losses incurred by hurricanes, fires and earthquakes in North America in 2017 – the industry’s costliest year ever.
Allianz’s combined ratio in its property and casualty division, a key measure of profitability, was 94.1 percent in the fourth quarter, down 0.4 percentage point from a year earlier. Readings below 100 indicate profitability.
The jump in quarterly profit was marred by weakness in its asset management division, which includes PIMCO, due to higher costs. The division had net outflows of 31 billion euros.
Allianz proposed a dividend of 9 euros per share, above expectations of 8.84 euros and the 8 euro payout last year.
($1 = 0.8864 euros) (Reporting by Tom Sims and Alexander Huebner; editing by Thomas Seythal and David Evans)
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