Allianz shares down after dividend disappoints

 
City A.M. Reporter
Allianz posted a below-forecast dividend hike after beating 2010 profit forecasts in the face of surging earthquake and flood claims.

Shares in Europe's largest insurer fell by 3.2 per cent on the results, underperforming the European insurance stock index.

One industry analyst, who declined to be named, said a €1bn share issue by Dutch rival Aegon had raised wider concerns about the need for insurers to increase solvency ratios to satisfy regulators.

Allianz will target operating profit of around €8bn (£6.8bn) this year, give or take €500m due to persisting uncertainties, chief executive Michael Diekmann told a news conference.

"Uncertainty factors will continue to be significant: volatility in the financial markets, indebtedness of government budgets, concerns about inflation," Diekmann said.

In 2010, it delivered operating profit of €8.2bn, the third best result in the company's history, despite a near tripling in payouts for damage claims on storms, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes to €1.3bn.

There was further pain in January and February, with flooding around Brisbane, cyclone Yasi in Australia and this week's earthquake in New Zealand set to cost the insurer around €300m, Diekmann said.

Allianz has pencilled in about €900m for expected natural catastrophe claims for the full year.

Some analysts expressed disappointment with Allianz's move to raise its dividend by nearly ten per cent to €4.50 per share for 2010, from €4.10 previously, saying they had expected more.

Allianz' share have risen by more than 27 per cent over the last 12 months, outpacing a 17 per cent rise in the index.

Allianz's 17 per cent rise in full-year operating profit was given a boost by a stronger-than-expected performance in its main money spinner, property and casualty insurance, where premiums increased by more than three per cent.