Munich Re Profit Declines on Higher Claims, Falling Prices

  • Fourth-quarter reinsurance combined ratio worsens to 101.9%
  • Company proposes raising dividend for 2016 to 8.60 euros

Munich Re's CFO: Last Quarter Dominated By Large Losses

Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, reported a bigger-than-expected drop in fourth-quarter earnings as claims from natural disasters rose while prices continue to fall.

Net income declined to about 500 million euros ($530 million) from about 700 million euros a year earlier, according to a statement Tuesday. That missed the 630 million-euro estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The company proposed a dividend of 8.60 euros a share for 2016, after paying out 8.25 euros for the prior year.

Reinsurers, which help primary insurers shoulder risks, are returning cash to shareholders as years of low claims from natural catastrophes reduce demand for coverage. Renewed premium volume declined by 4.9 percent and prices fell by about 0.5 percent in January, when Munich Re renews about half of its non-life reinsurance business. That’s even after Hurricane Matthew, which battered the U.S. East Coast in October after devastating parts of the Caribbean, pushed up claims during the fourth quarter.

“Market conditions for the renewals were once again challenging, even though the trend towards price reductions had continued to slow,” Torsten Jeworrek, who heads the property and casualty reinsurance unit, said in the statement. “We withdrew from business that no longer met profit expectations –- for instance, in China –- and built up or expanded profitable business, either through new acquisitions or by strengthening existing client relationship.”

Munich Re paid 232 million euros for Hurricane Matthew and 251 million euros for an earthquake in New Zealand in the fourth quarter. As a a result, the combined ratio at the property and casualty reinsurance unit, its most important in terms of earnings, worsened to 101.9 percent in the quarter from 78.6 percent a year ago. The ratio measures premium income against claims and costs.

Net income at the reinsurance unit decreased to about 400 million euros in the fourth quarter from 1.4 billion euros a year earlier.

Munich Re fell 2.2 percent at 9:41 a.m. in Frankfurt trading, bringing losses this year to 4.3 percent. Hannover Re, the third-biggest reinsurer, rose 0.7 percent after reporting higher full-year profit.

Ergo Restructuring

Hannover Re’s full-year net income rose to 1.17 billion euros from 1.15 billion euros in 2015, helped by “a further improvement in the underwriting result in property and casualty reinsurance,” the Hanover, Germany-based company said Tuesday. It didn’t give fourth-quarter earnings.

Munich Re’s full-year profit declined about 16 percent to 2.6 billion euros, missing the 2.7 billion-euro estimate of 20 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Munich Re said in November that full-year 2016 earnings may “substantially” exceed a reduced target of 2.3 billion euros. 

The company, which plans to report more detailed results on March 15, said in June that full-year earnings would include a 1 billion-euro restructuring plan for its Ergo primary insurance unit. As part of the plan, the Dusseldorf-based business will cut about 13 percent of its workforce and modernize its computer systems to boost profitability.

Ergo reported a full-year loss of about 40 million euros, after a shortfall of 200 million euros a year earlier. The unit, led by management board member Markus Riess, “is making good progress” on its restructuring and staff reductions, the company said.

“From now on I’m confident that we will see positive figures,” Munich Re Chief Financial Officer Joerg Schneider said in an interview with Bloomberg TV, adding that the company paid about 250 million euros for the unit’s revamp last year.

Munich Re Chief Executive Officer Nikolaus von Bomhard will hand over the CEO post to management board member Joachim Wenning in April.

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