November 14, 2019 / 6:38 AM / a month ago

Zurich takes on European rivals with new 2022 targets

ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - Zurich Insurance (ZURN.S) on Thursday raised its earnings targets for the next three years as Europe’s fifth-biggest insurer takes aim at rivals such as Allianz (ALVG.DE) and Generali (GASI.MI).

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss Zurich insurance is seen at an office building in Zurich, Switzerland October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Zurich’s three-year plan is “remarkably similar” to Allianz’s plan released in Nov 2018, Jefferies analysts said, pointing to Allianz’s strong performance since then and reiterating their “buy” rating on Zurich stock.

Zurich raised its target for business operating profit after tax return on equity (BOPAT ROE) to more than 14% from more than 12%.

BOPAT ROE stood at 15% in the first half of the year.

It also aims to achieve organic earnings per share growth of at least 5% annually, it said in a statement ahead of its investor day in London.

“We are on a journey for making the company stronger, better,” Chief Executive Mario Greco told a media call.

Zurich has not factored acquisitions or share buybacks into its plan, Greco said though he added the insurer could be “tactical and opportunistic” regarding merger opportunities.

The group said it was set to deliver continued high levels of cash remittances, which are expected to be in excess of $11.5 billion over the three years.

It will keep targeting a pay-out ratio of around 75% of net income attributable to shareholders, in line with its current dividend policy.

Greco said the insurer was not setting new public cost-cutting targets, but cost savings would be embedded in its financial targets.

“Our experience is that announcing cost cuts is not exactly boosting morale,” he said.

Last week, Zurich Insurance said property and casualty gross written premiums rose 2% in the first nine months of the year.

Zurich’s shares were down 0.13% at 385.8 Swiss francs at 0957 GMT.

Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and Carolyn Cohn, editing by John Miller and Jason Neely

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