Aflac profit beats estimates on strong Japan sales

Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:50pm EDT

(Reuters) - Life insurer Aflac Inc (AFL.N), which counts on Japan for almost 80 percent of its business, reported a better-than-expected 13 percent rise in quarterly profit but a weaker yen took a big chunk out of its premium income.

The yen has weakened sharply against the dollar since the Bank of Japan pledged earlier this month to inject about $1.4 trillion into the Japanese economy to fight deflation.

"Aflac Japan's overall sales were up due to the advanced purchases of products prior to a scheduled premium increase," Chief Executive Daniel Amos said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the "underlying strong results were masked by a significantly weaker yen."

Although Aflac's premium income rose 9.8 percent in yen terms in the first quarter, its premium income in dollars fell 5.9 percent to $3.9 billion.

Net profit rose to $892 million, or $1.90 per share, for the first quarter ended March 31, from $785 million, or $1.68 per share, a year earlier.

Operating profit -- a key measure of profitability for insurance companies as it excludes certain investment losses and gains -- was $1.69 per share, topping the average analyst estimates by 7 cents.

Aflac, Japan's biggest foreign insurer, forecast a second-quarter profit below estimates, but reaffirmed its full-year profit forecast of $5.99 to $6.37 per share.

The company said it expects a second-quarter profit of $1.41 to $1.56 per share. Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $1.57 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of Columbus, Georgia-based Aflac were down about 2 percent in light trading after the bell. The stock closed at $51.56 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Avik Das in Bangalore; Editing by Ted Kerr)