Baloise achieves high level of profitability in challenging climate

Basel, Baloise has demonstrated its resilience in the current climate with a solid half-year profit of CHF 248.7 million, outstanding profitability in its non-life business, and a strong capital base. Its business volume edged down to CHF 5,621.3 million in the first half of the year due to currency effects, but in local-currency terms it grew by 3.9 per cent (continuing operations). Already impressive, Baloise's net combined ratio improved again and is now an outstanding 92.3 per cent. Healthy growth of 3.3 per cent in local-currency terms was achieved in its traditional life business. The company's long-term solidity, including a solvency ratio of 333 per cent, shows that it remains strongly capitalised.

The key figures for the first half of 2015 are as follows:

Business volume (continuing operations): CHF 5,621.3 million

(30 June 2014: CHF 5,730.3 million)

Profit for the period (attributable to shareholders): CHF 248.7 million

(30 June 2014: CHF 349.9 million)

Equity: CHF 5,196.8 million

(30 June 2014: CHF 5,295.9 million)

Solvency ratio: 333 per cent

(31 December 2014: 354 per cent)

Combined ratio (net): 92.3 per cent

(30 June 2014: 93.2 per cent)

Martin Strobel, Baloise Group CEO, said: “We are satisfied. The financial results are within the range we had anticipated, profitability has improved significantly, particularly in non-life business and despite our restrictive underwriting guidelines we have reported growth in our target customer segments. Thanks to strong capitalisation, we have a sound basis for our future business that will allow us to exploit opportunities for further value creation. The headcount reduction in Germany is on track and we are achieving our efficiency goals, although large claims mean that the combined ratio has not yet reached our target level. Business in Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg is encouraging."

Overview

The Baloise Group reported a solid half-year profit of CHF 248.7 million in a challenging climate. As expected, the decision taken by the Swiss National Bank on 15 January 2015 had a negative impact on earnings. Nonetheless, all business divisions and all business units made a contribution to profit. Profitability in non-life business improved once more as a result of the company's operational excellence strategy, lower costs and a favourable claims environment, and this was demonstrated by its impressive net combined ratio of 92.3 per cent (H1 2014: 93.2 per cent). EBIT in non-life business was CHF 66.8 million higher than in the first half of 2014 and amounted to CHF 262.0 million. Given the prevailing interest rate environment, Baloise focused on a different product mix and investment-type premiums in its life business. In local currency terms, it achieved a healthy growth rate of 3.3 per cent in traditional business on the back of Swiss group life business. Modern products based on investment-type premiums grew by 14.6 per cent in local-currency terms at Baloise Group level. The banking business raised its EBIT by 5.4 per cent to CHF 42.8 million, largely due to contributions from Baloise Bank SoBa and Baloise Asset Management.

Balance sheet

Consolidated equity declined to CHF 5,196.8 million. The decrease was largely attributable to currency effects arising from the appreciation of the Swiss franc against the euro. Baloise remains strongly capitalised with an extremely high solvency ratio of 333 per cent compared with its European competitors. This is also reflected in Standard & Poor's confirmation of its 2014 upgrade of Baloise's credit rating to 'A with a stable outlook'. The rating agency emphasised Baloise's strong balance sheet, excellent operational profitability and solid competitive position in its core markets.

Investments

The impact on currencies triggered by the Swiss National Bank's decision dominated the situation for investments. However, gains on investments showed resilience in a tough interest rate environment and volatile currency and equity markets. Because interest rates remained low, and as a result of the exchange rate used to translate income earned, recurring income was lower and amounted to CHF 784.4 million compared with CHF 896.6 million in the first six months of 2014. Realised gains returned to normal following the extremely high level recognised in the first half of 2014. Consequently, net income of CHF 921.0 million for the first half of 2015 was well below the CHF 1,172.0 million reported for the first half of the previous year. On a non-annualised basis, this represented a net return of 1.6 per cent on insurance assets (H1 2014: 2.0 per cent).

Business units

The performance of Basler Switzerland's non-life business was encouraging and was reflected in its outstanding gross combined ratio of 81.5 per cent (down by 1.8 percentage points). The interest-rate and currency situation dented earnings in its life business which were down on the exceptionally strong results in the first half of 2014. Basler Switzerland's strong position was again reflected in its growth with IFRS premiums up by 4.5 per cent on the back of group life business. Demand for fully-insured solutions remained very high in this challenging environment. Basler Switzerland also gained a foothold in this major market by offering new partially autonomous solutions for occupational pensions. Belgium and Luxembourg grew very strongly. Belgium's good gross combined ratio improved to 94.6 per cent while Luxembourg's increased slightly to 82.0 per cent. Both national Baloise companies also reported significant growth rates in their non-life business in local-currency terms (Belgium: 3.5 per cent, Luxembourg: 3.9 per cent). Baloise's purchase of non-life insurer HDI-Gerling Luxembourg in early August is set to put it in the top three insurance companies in Luxembourg, while the headcount reduction in Germany is proceeding to plan and has significantly reduced costs. EBIT rose by CHF 16.6 million to CHF 33.7 million. As expected, the restructuring is taking time and in the first six months of 2015 large claims continued to have an adverse effect on the gross combined ratio (111.9 per cent).

Outlook

These healthy half-year financial results reaffirm the focus strategy that Baloise has adopted. Growth focusing on earnings in target customer segments, extremely strong capitalisation and outstanding profitability – particularly in non-life business – form the foundations for Baloise's next strategic phase starting in 2016.

Important dates

Thursday 27 August 2015

Conference calls for the half-year financial results

  • Newswires: 07:15 CET
  • Media: 09:30 CET
  • Analysts: 11:00 CET

Dial-in: +41 (0)58 310 50 00

Friday 17 November 2015

Q3 2015 interim statement

The Baloise Group is more than just a traditional insurance company. The changing security, safety and service needs of society in the digital age lie at the heart of its business activities. The 7,400 or so employees of Baloise therefore focus on the wishes of their customers. The best possible customer service, combined with innovative products and services, makes Baloise the first choice for people who want to feel 'simply safe'. Located at the heart of Europe, with its head office in Basel, the Baloise Group is a provider of prevention, pension, assistance and insurance solutions. Its core markets are Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. In Switzerland, with Baloise Bank SoBa, the Group also operates as a specialised financial services provider, offering a combination of insurance and banking services. The Group offers innovative pension products to retail customers throughout Europe from its competence centre in Luxembourg. Bâloise Holding Ltd shares are listed in the main segment of the SIX Swiss Exchange.