UNIQA closed 2020, a year marked by COVID-19, having exceeded the expectations communicated in April 2020. However, figures for the last year are comparable with those of prior periods only to a limited extent given the acquisition of AXA companies in Poland, Czechia and Slovakia and the non-recurring expenses of the “UNIQA 3.0 - Seeding the Future” strategy programme (2021 to 2025).
With €5,565 million in premiums written, 2020 saw encouraging growth of 3.6 per cent. After deducting the first-ever premium contribution by the AXA companies (+ €212 million), which were consolidated for the first time in the fourth quarter, UNIQA reported a 0.4 per cent decline in premiums, with the Austrian business picking up by 1 per cent and international UNIQA markets (excluding AXA) declining by 4.3 per cent – chiefly on account of currency effects.
Preliminary earnings before taxes (EBT) in 2020 were €57 million and include non-recurring effects of €243 million (EBT 2019: €295.7 million before adjusting for carrying amounts for goodwill in Romania and Bulgaria of €54.6 million): €137 million in restructuring provisions and expenses for integrating AXA companies and €106 million for goodwill write-downs in CEE (Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania).
The preliminary result was better than expected because, despite COVID-19-related claims expenses for insurance benefits of about €70 million and lockdown-related restrictions in retail, the claims and benefits figures developed positively overall. Despite the aforementioned extraordinary charges, the combined ratio rose by only 1.3 percentage points to 97.8 per cent. With an expected solvency ratio of around 170 per cent, UNIQA is within the defined range.
AXA integration expands customer base to more than 15 million
Finalising the acquisition of AXA companies in Czechia, Slovakia and Poland in October expanded UNIQA’s customer base to a total of more than 15 million (up 5 million) customers. The AXA integration boosted premiums written by over €800 million. The next two quarters will see further steps towards legal integration and brand migration to “UNIQA”. The latter was already completed in Slovakia in January. In future, 75 per cent of UNIQA Group’s customers will be in CEE growth markets, which account for around 40 per cent of premium contributions and more than 50 per cent of income in the Group.
UNIQA 3.0 strategy programme launched and on target – focus on “progressive dividend policy”
Under the “UNIQA 3.0 – Seeding The Future” strategy programme, UNIQA has set itself ambitious growth targets for the next five years: Average annual premium growth of 3 per cent, a considerable reduction in the cost ratio to 25 per cent, a combined ratio that is consistently below 95 per cent and a solvency ratio reliably over 170 per cent form the basis of progressive dividend growth on par with “pre-COVID-19” levels. This is underpinned by explicit customer focus and by maintaining high investments in digitalisation, IT and data.
Dividend proposal: 18 cent per share to signal confidence about the future
In light of negative expectations and the challenges in predicting how the COVID-19 pandemic would progress, a profit warning was issued in April 2020 for the year and it was announced that no dividends would be distributed for the financial year.
Thanks to UNIQA’s preliminary earnings significantly surpassing these expectations in the 2020 financial year, the sound core business and the successful integration of the acquired AXA companies in CEE, the Management Board intends, after consultation with the Supervisory Board, to submit a resolution to the Annual General Meeting proposing a dividend of 18 cents per share for 2020. UNIQA considers this dividend a signal of confidence that Europe, its people and its economy will overcome the crisis and return to health and growth.
Outlook for 2021
Given the uncertainty at present as to how the COVID-19 pandemic will progress and the associated government-ordered restrictions, UNIQA’s outlook is subject to considerable uncertainty. Nevertheless, UNIQA expects earnings before taxes to be approximately on par with 2018 figures.
This outlook assumes that the current COVID-19 situation and the closely intertwined macroeconomic developments do not deteriorate further over the year, there is no serious turbulence on capital markets and claims from natural disasters are in line with the average for previous years.
Provisional key Group figures for 2020 in detail
Total premiums written by UNIQA increased in 2020 – taking account of the savings portion of unit- and index-linked life insurance of €192.7 million (2019: €309.8 million) – by 3.6 per cent to €5,565.3 million (2019: €5,372.6 million). As far as insurance based on recurring premiums was concerned, there was a gratifying increase of 3.9 per cent to €5,472.2 million (2019: €5,267.9 million).
UNIQA grew in line with strategy in 2020: premiums written in property and casualty insurance grew by 5.7 per cent to €3,010.3 million in 2020 (2019: €2,846.8 million). In the reporting period, premiums written in health insurance rose by 3.3 per cent to €1,167.6 million (2019: €1,130.8 million). In life insurance, premiums written – including the savings portion of unit- and index-linked life insurance – decreased by 0.5 per cent in total to €1,387.5 million (2019: €1,394.9 million).
Retained consolidated insurance benefits saw a smaller upturn than premium income, rising by 1.0 per cent to €3,694.6 million (2019: €3,657.1 million).
Total consolidated operating expenses less reinsurance commissions received and profit shares from the reinsurance business increased in financial year 2020 by 11.3 per cent to €1,566.4 million (2019: €1,407.1 million). Other operating expenses included here rose by 26.4 per cent to €631.5 million because of higher costs for personnel and IT and one-time reorganisation charges (2019: €499.7 million). Expenses of €62 million were incurred in connection with the innovation and investment programme (2019: €51.4 million).
The total cost ratio – the ratio of total operating expenses to premiums earned including the net savings portion of the premiums from unit- and index-linked life insurance – increased in the past year because of the development presented above to 29.4 per cent (2019: 27.2 per cent).
Due to the higher cost ratio at Group level, the combined ratio after reinsurance deteriorated by a moderate 1.3 percentage points to 97.8 per cent (2019: 96.4 per cent).
Investment income fell to €505.4 million in 2020 (2019: €585.2 million). This was mainly due to write-downs on shares, fixed-income securities and equity investments. No significant gains from selling properties were posted in 2020. Currency effects of around €16 million also pulled down investment income.
The underwriting result of the UNIQA Group decreased significantly by 21.3 per cent in 2020 to €78.3 million (2019: €99.5 million). Operating earnings slid by a massive 30.2 per cent to € 247.6 million (2019: €354.9 million).
UNIQA’s EBT decreased by 76.3 per cent to €57.1 million (2019: €295.7 million), due chiefly to non-recurring restructuring provisions and goodwill impairment.
Consolidated net profit (net profit for the period attributable to the shareholders of UNIQA Insurance Group AG) was €19.4 million (2019: €232.4 million). As a result, earnings per share declined to €0.06 (2019: €0.76).
UNIQA The UNIQA Group is one of the leading insurance groups in its core markets of Austria and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Around 21,300 employees and exclusive sales partners serve around 15.5 million customers in 18 countries. UNIQA is the second-largest insurance group in Austria with a market share of more than 21 per cent. UNIQA operates in 15 markets in the CEE growth region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The UNIQA Group also includes insurance companies in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.