Allianz eyes calmer 2013 as euro crisis abates
MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Allianz (ALVG.DE) said it saw improving prospects for calm in the euro zone and a rekindling of world growth, after beating earnings expectations in 2012 and keeping its dividend steady.
"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, chief executive of Europe's biggest insurer, said in a statement.
However, Diekmann warned that low interest rates and uncertainties over government debt levels and a lack of growth in developed country markets could still return to bite earnings, as they did in the wake of the financial crisis.
Allianz said it expected operating profit in 2013 of 9.2 billion euros (8 billion pounds), plus or minus 500 million euros.
Operating profit for 2012 came in at 9.5 billion euros, helped by double-digit growth in its insurance businesses and a one-third increase in operating profit in asset management, as euro debt crisis fears subsided.
The asset management division saw third-party net inflows increase to 114 billion euros in 2012 from 38 billion in 2011, with much of the improvement coming in Europe.
Allianz said it would keep its dividend for 2012 stable at 4.50 euros, though full-year net profit after minority interests more than doubled to 5.2 billion euros.
Traders said the earnings were solid overall and should support shares on Thursday, although many investors had expected a higher dividend payout.
"Given strong solvency and strong profitability we find the announcement of an unchanged dividend somewhat disappointing," said DZ Bank analyst Thorsten Wenzel in a note to clients.
Allianz's shares opened up 0.6 percent at 104.90 euros, while German blue chips .GDAXI fell 0.6 percent.
The share has risen by nearly 20 percent over the past six months, outpacing a 14 percent gain in the STOXX Europe 600 insurance index .SXIP.
Fourth-quarter net profit of 1.22 billion euros was above the highest forecast in a Reuters poll of banks and brokerages.
(Reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by David Cowell and Helen Massy-Beresford)
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