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Old Mutual, L&G, Prudential H1 profit up; Zurich, Munich Re earnings down

S&P Global Market Intelligence offers our top picks of insurance news stories and more published throughout the week.

Rising profit

Some major insurers posted strong earnings this week.

* In the U.K., Old Mutual Plc reported higher first-half attributable profit and said it is on track to float Old Mutual Wealth and Old Mutual Ltd. in 2018. Standard Life Plc posted a year-over-year rise in first-half profit, with the CEO saying global markets are growing more accustomed to uncertainty. Legal & General Group Plc reported an increase, saying investment management was a driver of growth. Prudential Plc reported higher profit and said its decision to combine asset manager M&G Investment Management Ltd. with Prudential UK & Europe is largely about efficiency. Profits were also up at Hastings Group Holdings Plc.

* Elsewhere, Netherlands-based AEGON NV returned to profit in the second quarter from a year-ago loss. Its focus on strengthening its capital position is paying dividends — something its Dutch business is expected to resume doing in the literal sense. Germany's Hannover Re saw its second-quarter group net income increase to €270.2 million from the restated €216.8 million in the same period in 2016. And Wüstenrot & Württembergische AG reported first-half consolidated net profit attributable to shareholders of the company of €154.2 million, mainly driven by the higher result from its property and casualty insurance segment, compared to €120.1 million in the year-ago period.

Falling earnings

Others saw a fall in profits.

* Zurich Insurance Group AG's attributable net income for the first half fell to $1.50 billion from the year-ago $1.61 billion, which the group said was driven by lower net capital gains. It said it had an "excellent" second quarter, making good progress with cost savings and offsetting all charges booked in the previous quarter related to a change in the U.K. personal injury discount rate.

* Munich Re posted year-over-year declines in second-quarter and first-half profits, with second-quarter consolidated profit attributable to equity holders totaling €729 million, down 25.1% from a year ago. The reinsurer would not rule out using a €7.5 billion pile of surplus capital for acquisitions, but any deal would have to come at the right time and be a strategic fit, the company's CEO said.

* Belgium's Ageas SA/NV reported a 69% year-over-year decline in its second-quarter net result. But its U.K. insurance business is recovering from a downturn prompted by the reduction in the so-called Ogden rate.

* Helsinki-based Sampo Oyj reported second-quarter group net profit of €375 million, down 11% from €421 million in the year-ago period. For the first half, group net profit came in at €753 million, down 4% from €783 million in the same period in 2016.

Buyers and sellers

* Funds managed or advised by Blackstone Group LP's Tactical Opportunities business, Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. have agreed to acquire Goldman Sachs's entire shareholding in Rothesay Life Plc.

* AEGON NV agreed to sell independent financial advisory group Unirobe Meeùs Groep BV to Aon Groep Nederland BV for €295 million, subject to works council advice and normal regulatory approvals. Aon Groep Nederland is a subsidiary of Aon Plc.

Executive moves

* Novae Group Plc named Adam Cragg COO. He was most recently head of operations for the U.K. and the rest of the world at Beazley Plc.

* RSA Insurance Group Plc appointed Anny Khaitan COO for its global risk solutions business. Khaitan joined RSA in July from Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited, where she served as head of change for the Bermuda-based company's office in London.

* Aon Benfield senior managing director Andrew Ferrier is leaving the company to join JLT Re. Ferrier has spent more than 15 years at Aon Benfield, after joining the reinsurance broker as a senior vice president in 2002. JLT Re is part of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group Plc.

In other news

* The U.K. bulk annuities market is likely to see transactions worth more than £10 billion for the third year in a row in 2017.

* The Russian Finance Ministry put forward a proposal aimed at liberalizing the country's compulsory motor third-party liability insurance segment, but the proposed changes have been criticized by both the Russian central bank and local market players.

* Credit insurer Coface SA, a Groupe BPCE unit, signed a three-year, €700 million syndicated loan agreement, replacing existing bilateral credit lines.

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