AXA says nine-month revenues rise 1.3 percent, Solvency up

PARIS Thu Oct 25, 2012 1:32am EDT

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe's No. 2 insurer AXA (AXAF.PA) reported a 1.3 percent rise in nine-month revenues on a comparable basis on Thursday as strength in areas such as property and casualty insurance offset weakness in life insurance.

Total revenues rose to 68.36 billion euros ($88.66 billion), helped by a 3.6 percent gain in property and casualty insurance sales, which were especially strong in markets such as Turkey, Mexico and Hong Kong.

AXA said its regulatory Solvency 1 ratio, a measure of financial strength, had risen to more than 220 percent by the end of September, up from 207 percent the company reported at the end of the first half.

AXA, Europe's second-largest insurer behind Germany's Allianz (ALVG.DE), has been struggling with rock-bottom interest rates and lingering uncertainty over the euro zone debt crisis, which have hurt its asset management and savings products.

AXA shares are up 20 percent so far this year, slightly underperforming the wider insurance sector.

Chief Financial Officer Gerald Harlin told reporters the company remained "absolutely positive" on its ability to meet the goals of its strategic plan announced last year.

It targeted 1.5 billion euros in cost savings in "mature markets" by 2015, by which time it hoped to lift its adjusted return on equity to 15 percent.

Asked about the company's plan to sell or spin off its private equity arm - announced roughly a year ago - Harlin said the process was "continuing normally" though he noted that French government plans to boost taxes on the industry would be "an additional factor" in the talks. ($1 = 0.7711 euros)

(Reporting By Christian Plumb and Matthieu Protard; editing by Mark John)

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