Axa Posts 12% Gain in 2014 Profit Led by Life & Savings

Axa SA, France’s largest insurer, reported a 12 percent jump in full-year profit, buoyed by its life and savings division. The shares rose.

Net income climbed to 5.02 billion euros ($5.7 billion) from 4.48 billion euros a year earlier, Axa said in a statement on Wednesday in Paris. Operating profit rose 7 percent to 5.06 billion euros. The company plans a dividend of 95 cents a share for 2014, up from 81 cents a year earlier.

Axa has disposed of more than 8.5 billion euros of assets in developed markets since 2010 and is investing in faster-growing nations from China to Nigeria. The insurer is seeking to double operating profit from such markets this year from 2010. The company is on track to reach its 2015 goals, said Chief Executive Officer Henri de Castries.

“We want to further diversify our geographical presence and our activities, while improving our operational efficiency,” de Castries, 60, said in the statement. “This will allow us to have good results despite the low interest rate environment.”

Axa rose 4.8 percent to 22.47 euros by 9:16 a.m. in Paris trading, the biggest intraday gain in two months.

Currency Benefit

Operating profit at the life and savings division increased 12 percent to 3.13 billion euros last year as sales of protection and health insurance contracts rose, especially in Asia and France, Axa said. Earnings from property and casualty climbed 2.5 percent to 2.16 billion euros.

In 2015, Axa will probably see a “positive” currency effect on its results from the U.S. dollar, Hong Kong dollar and Swiss franc, Chief Financial Officer Gerald Harlin told journalists on a call.

Last year’s earnings were affected by a 251 million-euro writedown on its stake in Russian insurer Reso Garantia because of “deteriorated economic perspectives” in the country, the insurer said.

Adjusted return on equity, a measure of profitability, fell to 14.5 percent in 2014 from 14.8 percent in the previous year, Axa said. Axa has a target of 13 percent to 15 percent adjusted ROE for 2015. Axa also has a target for operating earnings-per-share rising 5 percent to 10 percent on average between 2010 and 2015. Operating EPS rose 5.4 percent in 2014.

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