Allianz SE, Europe’s biggest insurer, said first-quarter profit climbed 11 percent, even as investors withdrew funds from its asset manager Pacific Investment Management Co. The shares surged the most in six months.
Net income increased to 1.82 billion euros ($2 billion) from 1.64 billion euros a year earlier, the Munich-based insurer said in a statement Wednesday, citing preliminary results. It kept its target for operating profit at 10 billion euros to 10.8 billion euros this year compared with 10.4 billion euros last year.
“Our first-quarter results were a good start into 2015 and we remain confident in achieving our full-year operating profit target,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Diekmann said. He didn’t provide details of what drove the profit gain.
Allianz has seen investment margins narrow along with other European insurers after the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing pushed yields on some government bonds into negative. Two years of withdrawals at Newport Beach, California-based Pimco’s flagship Pimco Total Return Fund have also crimped returns. On Wednesday, JPMorgan Chase & Co. cut its rating on Allianz to underweight, joining Barclays Plc in warning of slower earnings growth.
The shares advanced as much as 3.4 percent, the biggest increase since Nov. 7. They climbed 2.5 percent to 154.3 euros at 9:46 a.m. in Frankfurt, bringing this year’s gain to 12 percent and valuing the company at 70 billion euros. The Bloomberg Europe 500 Insurance Index rose 0.1 percent.
Allianz convened its annual shareholder meeting in Munich on Wednesday, when Diekmann, 60, will hand over to Oliver Baete, 50, after 12 years as CEO. Allianz plans a comprehensive strategy review for the coming years under Baete.
The “challenges of low interest rates” were reflected in a decline in the new business margin at the life and health unit to 1.5 percent from 2.5 percent, Allianz said in the statement.
Lower interest rates and new capital rules for global insurers will force Allianz and other EU insurers to allocate more and more cash to units that offer guaranteed returns for investors, JPMorgan analysts Michael Huttner and Rahul Parekh said in a report. The average guaranteed rate in Germany, where Allianz is the market leader in life, is three percent.
Investors pulled $5.6 billion from Pimco’s bond mutual fund in April, after redemptions of $7.3 billion in March and $8.6 billion in February.
Third-party assets under management at Allianz’s asset management unit, which includes Pimco and Allianz Global Investors, rose to 1.41 trillion euros at the end of March from 1.31 trillion euros at the end of last year helped by currency effects and valuation gains, Allianz said.
Bill Gross, who co-founded Pimco in 1971 and built it into one of the world’s largest investment companies, left for Denver-based Janus Capital Group Inc. in September. Pimco saw total assets decline 5.4 percent to $1.59 trillion in the first quarter, it said April 16.
The property and casualty insurance unit’s combined ratio worsened to 94.6 percent from 92.6 percent, with 1.9 percentage points attributed to natural catastrophe claims, Allianz said.
The insurer is due to report full first-quarter earnings on May 12.