France’s AXA Group, Europe’s second-biggest insurer, said first-quarter group sales fell 2.7 percent to €28.066 billion ($43.46 billion) with turnover hurt by adverse foreign exchange rates and the credit crisis.
Life and savings new business sales on an annual premium equivalent (APE) basis fell 6.2 percent to €1.939 billion ($2.975 billion). A Reuters poll of 10 analysts gave an average APE sales forecast of €2 billion ($3.07 billion).
Annual premium equivalent turnover is an industry benchmark that smoothes out swings created by the sales of single-premium products such as annuities and investment bonds.
Sales of property and casualty (P&C) insurance rose 2 percent to €8.885 billion ($13.655 billion), slightly below an average Reuters forecast for sales of €8.92 billion ($13.71 billion).
AXA Chief Executive Henri de Castries said he expected more growth in the property and casualty business and was upbeat over AXA’s prospects despite the financial market turmoil. “Our property and casualty business, up 2 percent, should accelerate its growth in the upcoming quarters confirming our positive outlook for 2008,” he said in a statement. “We remain confident in the strength of our business model and continue, in line with our Ambition 2012 program, to invest for our development,” he added, referring to AXA’s strategy plan called Ambition 2012.
Insurers have been impacted by the global credit crunch and stock market fall since their savings products often invest much of their assets in equities.
Last month, Europe’s biggest insurer Allianz said it had so far booked a total write down of around €2.5 billion ($3.84 billion) from the credit crisis and said market problems could hurt its future profits.
AXA shares closed down 2.1 percent at €24.06 ($36.97) on Tuesday. The stock has fallen around 12 percent since the start of 2008, compared to an 8 percent decline in the DJ Stoxx European insurance sector.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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