Helvetia Raises Dividend After Profit Jumps 18% on Investments

Helvetia Holding AG (HELN), Switzerland’s fourth-biggest insurer, increased its full-year dividend by 6.3 percent after full-year profit rose on higher investment income and improving non-life results.

The insurer will pay a dividend of 17 Swiss francs ($18) a share, up from 16 francs in 2011, St. Gallen, Switzerland-based Helvetia said in a statement on its website today. Net income advanced to 339.6 million francs from 288.2 million francs a year earlier. That beat the 335.3 million-franc average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Helvetia, which generates more than half of its revenue in Switzerland, pursues “an active mergers and acquisitions strategy” and has said it may use part of the 4.1 billion francs in equity it held at the end of 2012 for purchases in countries such as Germany and Italy. It last year took over the transport portfolio of Gan Eurocourtage, a subsidiary of Groupama SA, making it France’s No. 2 transport insurer.

“Our 2012 year-end result shows that we have effectively managed the challenges of a demanding market environment,” said Chief Executive Officer Stefan Loacker. “The acquisitions support our growth and our confidence that we will profitably serve our existing markets in the long term, too.”

Investment income increased 34 percent to 1.18 billion francs after an investment performance of 5.5 percent. Operating profit in non-life, the insurer’s biggest unit, rose 33 percent to 180.6 million francs, Helvetia said.

The company in November completed its purchase of SEV Versicherungen and said it will buy a 51 percent stake in Chiara Assicurazioni SpA from Italy’s Banco di Desio e della Brianza SpA (BDB) for 17 million euros ($22 million), while raising its stake in Chiara Vita SpA to 100 percent from 70 percent for 22.5 million euros.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carolyn Bandel in Zurich at cbandel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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