- Best year in the company’s history – earnings before taxes: around €423 million
- Premiums written increased by 4.3 per cent to €6,325.1 million
- Combined ratio improves to 97.8 per cent
- Dividend proposal to 47 cents per share (+11.9 per cent/2014: 42 cents)
- Comprehensive investment and innovation programme launched
- Lean Group structure – subject to permission of authorities: merger of the four primary insurers operating in Austria and reduction of Management Board members from 22 to 10
To mark the presentation of the preliminary annual results for 2015, UNIQA CEO Andreas Brandstetter delivers a positive summary of the progress so far of the long-term “UNIQA 2.0” growth strategy launched in 2011. “In the last five years, we have rigorously pursued and largely achieved our ambitious targets for 2015,” Brandstetter says. UNIQA now has a healthy, strong equity base and high operating profitability in the core business in the two core markets of Austria and Central and Eastern Europe. The number of customers rose continuously from 7.5 million to more than 10 million.
Best annual result in the company’s history – continuing increase of dividend distribution
As a result of this change process, which is set to continue until 2020, UNIQA achieved the best result in its history in 2015. Premiums written (including savings portion) increased by 4.3 per cent to €6,325.1 million and the operating ROE amounted to 16.2 per cent. In addition, the Group cost ratio improved from 22.2 per cent to 21.3 per cent and the combined ratio from 99.6 per cent to 97.8 per cent. Earnings per share climbed to €1.07 (2014: €0.94). The return on equity after taxes and minority interests amounted to 10.6 per cent in the reporting year (2014: 9.9 per cent). The solvency ratio (Solvency I) was 301.7 per cent. “With preliminary earnings before taxes of €422.8 million, we have achieved growth of 11.9 per cent on 2014 and the highest earnings in the company’s history,” says Brandstetter on the fulfilment of the earnings forecast. Based on these figures, the Management Board will propose to the Supervisory Board and Annual General Meeting that a dividend of 47 cents per share – 11.9 per cent higher again than the dividend for 2014 of 42 cents – be paid for the 2015 financial year. In total, this corresponds to a distribution of around 43.7 per cent of consolidated net profit.
Continuation of the growth course – active management of challenges from a stable basis
“We will continue to emphatically pursue our targets,” says the UNIQA CEO, affirming the continuation of the course. “We want to be the best insurance partner for our customers in Central and Eastern Europe and increase the number of customers to 15 million by 2020 – against the backdrop of the greatest upheaval that our industry has ever faced,” says Brandstetter of the challenge for the years ahead.
UNIQA will manage the tense economic situation on the capital markets with historically low interest rates, which is having a considerable impact on parts of the traditional business model and the investment result, and the additional complexity resulting from increasing regulation as actively as digitalisation, which is leading to fundamental changes in customer expectations and behaviour, says the UNIQA CEO. “The current annual result and our healthy equity position are now giving us the strength to make necessary investments in our future in order to remain “fit to market” in the long term,” says Brandstetter, announcing the broad investment and innovation programme.
UNIQA launches €500 million investment programme – digital transformation in the core business
The increasing diversity of convergent product and service offerings from the “new” and “old” economies is disrupting business models throughout the financial services industry. “The digitalisation and digital networking of existing services, which UNIQA has successfully promoted in recent years, are the first steps in the right direction, but they will not be sufficient,” says Brandstetter, pointing to examples such as the “SafeLine” in car insurance or the VitalCoaches and medical call centre in healthcare.
“In order to trigger the necessary innovation boost, we will invest €500 million in our future over the next few years. The investments, a large portion of which will be made this year, will largely go on the redesign of the business model, the necessary IT systems and the build-up of expertise required,” Brandstetter specifies. For this purpose, a Digital Officer, a Data Officer and an Innovation Officer will report directly to the Management Board in the UNIQA Group in the future. “In the core business, we are transforming ourselves from a provider of insurance products into an integrated service provider that meets customers in their ‘needs environment’, where they intuitively expect security and associated services,” says the UNIQA CEO. In the future, this may be the application-controlled ‘smart home’, the self-driving car or any form of free-time activity that aims at a healthy, better and longer life. An essential requirement for this is the best possible convergence of new technology with the already close-knit network of local UNIQA advisors.
New, lean Group structure: reduction of Management Board members from 22 to 10 – more speed, more efficiency, greater innovation
UNIQA is also responding to the altered requirements of customers and the market in terms of its structure. “We are not only becoming more innovative, but also more powerful and efficient,” says Brandstetter, outlining the Group’s new leaner structure decided upon on 9 March 2016: “We will merge the four primary insurers operating in Austria into one company, reduce the number of Management Board members from 22 to 10, and realise the arising synergies by concentrating on tasks and associated Group-wide responsibilities,” Brandstetter specifies.
The stock listed parent company UNIQA Insurance Group AG is to be significantly streamlined. The key functions such as strategic Group management, innovation, asset management, finance, risk, and operations/IT will be performed by three instead of five Management Board members as of 6 June 2016. “In the future, the Group’s Management Board will comprise my colleagues Kurt Svoboda, CFO/CRO (Finance & Risk), Erik Leyers, COO (Operations including IT), and me. Kurt Svoboda and Erik Leyers will simultaneously carry out the same Management Board duties at UNIQA Österreich Versicherungen AG and UNIQA International AG as well,” says Brandstetter, describing the future board responsibilities in the holding company. The Management Board mandates will run until 2020.
Hannes Bogner and Thomas Münkel will withdraw from the Management Board of the UNIQA Insurance Group of their own request and by amicable mutual agreement. Andreas Brandstetter: “Hannes Bogner was a member of the Management Board since 1999 and made a significant contribution to UNIQA’s successful development in this time with his excellent and profound knowledge. He will retire after 22 years in the company. Thomas Münkel, who was a crucial influence on the company with his technical expertise and strategic capabilities, is returning to Germany for family reasons and will retain a link to the company as a consultant. I thank him especially for introducing and establishing his successor Erik Leyers. I thank them both for their many years of loyalty and unlimited support and wish them all the best for their future.” Wolfgang Kindl, also a former member of the Group’s Management Board, will remain the Chairman of the Management Board of UNIQA International AG.
Talks with the Management Board members who are leaving Management Board roles at the operating companies are ongoing with regard to their duties in the Group.
At the same time, the four primary insurers operating in Austria are being combined into a single company. Raiffeisen Versicherung AG, FinanceLife Lebensversicherung AG and Salzburger Landes-Versicherung AG shall be absorbed by UNIQA Österreich Versicherungen AG. The mergers are expected to be legally complete by the first quarter of 2017 at the latest. The insurance portfolios of the present four companies will therefore be pooled in one company.
UNIQA Österreich, already the largest insurer on the Austrian market, will be responsible for 3.5 million customers following the merger and reach a market share of over 22 per cent.
“The new Group structure will increase our operating excellence in the core business and focus our strengths on our customers and the required innovation boost in the business model. The excellent sales partnership with the Raiffeisen banks in Austria will remain a significant factor for the future, which will be recognised in the new structure with a distinct Management Board department for bank-based sales and by keeping the brand,” says the UNIQA boss. The Management Board posts for life&health and non-life insurance will be held by the same people at UNIQA Österreich and UNIQA International AG in order to standardise responsibility throughout the Group in this area too.
Outlook for 2016
“We are launching a comprehensive innovation programme in 2016 and will invest around €500 million over the next few years,” says Brandstetter. However, a good portion of these considerable future investments will take effect in 2016 and is thus reflected in an altered earnings forecast. In combination with the persistently difficult conditions, such as the still moderate economic outlook, ongoing low interest rates, sinking investment income and political uncertainty in individual markets, UNIQA expects earnings before taxes in the 2016 financial year to be up to 50 per cent lower than the very good earnings for 2015.
Despite the investments and the challenging economic environment, UNIQA intends to continuously increase the annual dividend per share in the years to come as part of a progressive dividend policy.
Continuation of the progressive dividend policy: increase of dividend per share and year
“Despite the comprehensive investments in the future and the challenging economic environment, we still plan to continuously increase the annual dividend in the years to come,” says Brandstetter of his intention to continue the progressive dividend policy with a dividend increase per share and per year between 2016 and 2020. In addition, Brandstetter presents shareholders with the prospect of the further consistent continuation of the growth course started in 2011: with a planned average operating ROE of 13.5 per cent (2017-2020) and a stable ECR ratio of more than 170 per cent, UNIQA is to retain its high level of profitability at the same time as a comfortable equity base in the years to come. “On the basis of our strong economic position, we will finance both the future investments of more than €500 million and our sustainably progressive dividend policy not by selling assets but from our cash flow,” says Brandstetter. “With the new Group structure and our innovation programme, we are laying the best foundations for the transformation of our business model to become an integrated service provider. We plan to thus build on our market position in a long-term, sustainable manner,” concludes the UNIQA CEO.
Management Board mandates from 1 June 2016
UNIQA Insurance Group AG
Andreas Brandstetter, CEO
Kurt Svoboda, CFO/CRO (Finance & Risk)
Erik Leyers, COO (Operations incl. IT)
Kurt Svoboda and Erik Leyers simultaneously carry out the same Management Board duties at UNIQA Österreich Versicherungen AG and UNIQA International AG as well.
UNIQA Österreich Versicherungen AG
Hartwig Löger, Chairman, Sales
Klaus Pekarek, Bancassurance
Kurt Svoboda, Finance & Risk
Erik Leyers, Operations
Peter Eichler, Life&Health
Andreas Kößl, Non-Life
Peter Eichler and Andreas Kößl simultaneously carry out the same Management Board duties at UNIQA International AG as well.
UNIQA International AG
Wolfgang Kindl, Chairman
Zoran Visnjic, Sales
Johannes Porak, Bancassurance
Kurt Svoboda, Finance & Risk
Erik Leyers, Operations
Peter Eichler, Life&Health
Andreas Kößl, Non-Life
Key Group figures
Premiums written – including the savings portion of unit- and index-linked life insurance – increased by 4.3 per cent to €6,325.1 million (2014: €6,064.4 million).
This increase is primarily attributable to extremely strong growth in the first three months of the year in single premium business in life insurance in Italy and in bank-based sales. In total, premiums in life insurance business rose by 8.2 per cent to €2,685.8 million in 2015 (2014: €2,482.7 million).
Premiums written in health insurance increased by 3.9 per cent to €997.9 million (2014: €960.8 million). In property and casualty insurance, premiums written remained close to unchanged at €2,641.4 million, with growth of 0.8 per cent (2014: €2,620.9 million).
Looking at the development by region, premiums written in international business rose by 2.7 per cent to €2,416.8 million (2014: €2,353.1 million). At the same time, they increased by 5.3 per cent to €3,908.3 million in Austria (2014: €3,711.3 million).
Retained premiums earned in accordance with IFRS (i.e. not including the savings portion of unit- and index-linked life insurance) grew by 6.0 per cent to €5,633.5 million (2014: €5,312.9 million).
Retained insurance benefits increased by 5.1 per cent to €4,607.6 million (2014: €4,383.7 million), growing somewhat slower than premiums earned. Life insurance benefits saw significant growth of 12.3 per cent from €1,879.6 million to €2,111.2 million), as provisions for future benefits increased significantly as a result of higher premium income in life insurance.
Operating expenses less reinsurance commissions and profit shares from reinsurance business ceded developed positively. In 2015, expenses remained on a par with the previous year at €1,298.7 million (2014: €1,299.1 million). Administrative expenses declined by 3.5 per cent to €373.1 million (2014: €386.6 million) due to the consistent implementation of cost management as part of the UNIQA 2.0 strategy programme. Acquisition expenses increased by 1.3 per cent to €950.4 million (2014: €938.6 million), considerably less than premium income.
The consolidated cost ratio after reinsurance improved to 21.3 per cent (2014: 22.2 per cent) as a result of unchanged costs concurrent with increased premiums.
The combined ratio in property and casualty insurance after reinsurance improved to 97.8 per cent (2014: 99.6 per cent) and was below 100 per cent in all three operating segments (UNIQA Österreich: 93.9 per cent; Raiffeisen Versicherung Österreich: 82.7 per cent; UNIQA International: 99.1 per cent).
Investments, including investments held on account and at risk of life insurance policyholders, increased by €391.1 million as against the end of the last reporting period to €29,416.1 million (31 December 2014: €29,024.9 million). Net investment income decreased by 6.4 per cent to €831.1 million (2014: €888.2 million). The ongoing low interest rates had a particularly negative impact here.
The technical result of the UNIQA Group increased significantly by 56.5 per cent to €199.9 million in 2015 (2014: €127.7 million).
Operating profit increased by 10.4 per cent to €494.1 million (2014: €447.6 million).
Earnings before taxes was very gratifying, primarily due to the good performance in the property and casualty insurance and health insurance segments, and increased by 11.9 per cent to €422.8 million (2014: €377.9 million). However, the low interest rates had a negative impact on the life insurance segment.
Consolidated profit amounted to €331.1 million (2014: €289.9 million). Earnings per share climbed to €1.07 (2014: €0.94). The return on equity after taxes and minority interests amounted to 10.6 per cent in the reporting year (2014: 9.9 per cent).
The UNIQA Group’s equity increased by 2.3 per cent or €70.5 million to €3,152.7 million (31 December 2014: €3,082.2 million).
The solvency ratio (Solvency I) improved to 301.7 per cent (31 December 2014: 295.4 per cent) as a result of the increase in equity. For 2015, an economic capital requirement ratio according to Solvency II (ECR ratio) of over 180 per cent is expected (2014: 150 per cent).
The average number of employees at the UNIQA Group fell to 14,113 (2014: 14,336).
The number of customers served by the UNIQA Group companies in 19 markets was more than 10 million at the end of 2015.
All the figures for the 2015 financial year are based on unaudited preliminary data. The final annual report with audited figures will be published on the Group website www.uniqagroup.com on 14 April.
This press release contains statements concerning UNIQA’s future development. These statements present estimates which were reached on the basis of all of the information available to us at the present time. If the assumptions on which they are based do not occur, the actual results may deviate from the results currently expected. As a result, no liability is accepted for this information.
The UNIQA Group is one of the leading insurance groups in its core markets of Austria and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). 22,000 employees and exclusive sales partners serve more than 10 million customers in 19 countries. UNIQA is the second-largest insurance group in Austria with a market share of around 22 per cent. UNIQA operates in 15 markets in the CEE growth region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The UNIQA Group also includes insurance companies in Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.