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Baloise CEO Says Dividend May Increase in `Small Steps'

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Martin Strobel, chief executive officer of Baloise Holding AG, said the Swiss insurer could raise dividends in “small steps.”

“We work on the sustainable earnings power of Baloise,” Strobel told analysts at the company’s investor day in Basel, Switzerland today. “This makes me very confident that the upside risk of the dividend is higher than the downside risk.”

Switzerland’s third-biggest insurer last increased its dividend in 2008 to 4.50 Swiss francs ($4.98), and has kept it there since. The company, which says it wants to give investors an attractive and reliable payout, pays the dividend from operating earnings, said Strobel, who became CEO in 2009.

“If we were to increase the dividend, please expect small steps” to between 4.60 francs and 4.75 francs, Strobel said. “Given our more sustainable thinking, it is not wise to take a big step.”

Baloise reduced its return-on-equity goal this year as low interest rates put pressure on investment returns. The 150-year-old insurer said it will also cut about 400 jobs by the end of 2017 as it targets annual savings of 40 million euros ($54.7 million) in Germany until 2015.

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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