Munich Re Jumps Most in Four Years After Dividend Beats Forecast

  • Company proposes dividend of 8.25 euros a share for 2015
  • Fourth-quarter earnings are unchanged at 700 million euros

Munich Re, the world’s second-largest reinsurer, rose the most since November 2011 after announcing a dividend that beat expectations. The company reported fourth-quarter profit that was unchanged from a year earlier.

The shares gained as much as 5.2 percent in Frankfurt. Munich Re plans to raise the dividend for 2015 to 8.25 euros ($9.14) a share from 7.75 euros a year earlier, the company said in a statement on Thursday. That beat a Bloomberg dividend forecast of 8 euros per share.

Reinsurers including Munich Re, Swiss Re AG and Hannover Re sell backup coverage to insurance companies, protecting them against big risks such as natural catastrophes. While natural catastrophe losses last year fell to the lowest since 2009 last year, earnings in the industry continue to be squeezed by record-low interest rates and declining prices for coverage.

Based on preliminary figures, net income was about 700 million euros in the quarter, matching the average estimate of six analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Higher reinsurance earnings were offset by charges at Ergo, the primary-insurance unit.

“Due to the fact that the market environment is so challenging, the 2015 result is pleasing,” Chief Financial Officer Joerg Schneider said in the statement. “The good result is mainly due to our operational profitability and rock-solid balance sheet.”

Munich Re traded at 176.5 euros at 9:58 a.m., up 4.5 percent. It has dropped about 4.3 percent this year.

Full-year profit declined to about 3.1 billion euros from 3.2 billion euros a year earlier. The reinsurance unit reported a 14 percent increase in profit to about 3.3 billion euros as it benefited from a subdued major claims bill of about 1 billion euros last year, down from 1.2 billion euros in 2014. Last year’s major claims were the explosion at Tianjin harbor in China with 175 million euros and a dam failure in Brazil with 156 million euros, the company said.

Ergo, led by former Allianz SE Germany head Markus Riess, reported a loss of about 200 million euros last year after a year-earlier profit of about 200 million euros, following additional expenses of 452 million euros from the revaluation of goodwill. The sale of Ergo Italia in November led to a loss of about 100 million euros, Munich Re said.

“Munich Re’s capital buffer is strong and we expect further share buy-backs,” Thomas Seidl, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, wrote in an e-mailed report to clients. However, the charges at the primary insurance unit show that “Ergo’s new CEO has much to do in both property and casualty and life.”

In January, when slightly more than half of Munich Re’s non-life reinsurance business was up for renewal, prices declined by about 1 percent. The company said it doesn’t expect the market to change significantly in the subsequent renewal rounds in April and July.

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