By Jonathan Gould
MUNICH (Reuters) – German insurer Allianz (ALVG.DE) raised its dividend by less than expected after earnings in its core property and casualty insurance businesses lagged and asset management stalled following client defections at its U.S. unit Pimco.
Shares in Europe’s largest insurer fell more than 3 percent on Thursday and were the biggest decliners in Germany’s blue chip DAX (.GDAXI) index after the company announced a dividend of 6.85 euros ($ 8) per share, up from 5.30 euros paid for 2013 but short of the median forecast of 7 euros in a Reuters poll.
Both net and operating profit also fell short of analysts’ average expectations in the full year.
“Geopolitical tensions, continued market volatility and a further decline in interest rates in 2014 led to lower global economic growth than expected,” outgoing Allianz Chief Executive Michael Diekmann said, giving his last set of full-year earnings before handing over to successor Oliver Baete.
Operating profit in the company’s main money-spinning division, property and casualty insurance, was hit by the need to plump capital cushions against potential claims in Brazil, at U.S. unit Fireman’s Fund and in Russia.
Asset management operating profit also fell short of expectations in the full year amid investor withdrawals and management turmoil at U.S. bond manager Pimco, including the defection of investment guru Bill Gross.
Cash withdrawals totaled $ 150 billion from Pimco’s U.S. open-end mutual funds in 2014. In January, investors pulled $ 11.6 billion from the Pimco Total Return Fund.
PIMCO’S NEW APPROACH
Retirement plans representing tens of billions of dollars in assets are turning to multiple investment strategies or team-managed funds to replace Pimco Total Return (PTTRX.O) and avoid the risks associated with being dependent on one manager.
Allianz said there was a clear trend toward receding outflows that continued in 2015 and that the unit should see further stabilization this year.
“Pimco has taken the long-awaited step from being an investment management company centered around its founder to becoming a much broader-based, modern company,” Diekmann said.
Group operating profit of 10.4 billion euros for the full year was short of the average expectation of 10.7 billion in the poll.
The company forecast the same operating profit of 10.4 billion euros for 2015, adding that the result could be 400 million euros higher or lower depending on the development of capital markets and large damage claims.
“The figures are no reason to rejoice and even a record dividend cannot make up for disappointing numbers,” said one Frankfurt trader.
Analysts polled by Reuters on average expect operating profit of 10.8 billion euros this year.
Full year net profit came in a 6.22 billion euros for 2014, compared with the average expectation of 6.45 billion in the Reuters poll.
(Reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Keith Weir)
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