NZ's Tower H1 profit jumps as it repositions
WELLINGTON May 28 (Reuters) - New Zealand insurance company Tower Ltd reported an 87 percent rise in half year profit on Tuesday as it sold off businesses to focus on general insurance, promising to distribute sale proceeds to shareholders.
The company said profit after tax for the six months to March 31 was NZ$44.2 million ($35.9 million) compared with NZ23.6 million in the same period last year.
Since last November, the company has sold its health insurance business to Australian firm NIB for NZ$79 million, its funds management business to Fisher Funds for NZ$102 million, and most of its life insurance business to Fidelity Life Assurance for NZ$189 million.
"Tower is now strongly positioned to concentrate on being a simpler, dynamic and more agile business in a sector that is poised for growth," retiring managing director Rob Flannagan said in a statement.
Tower had already distributed NZ$120 million to shareholders and would distribute a further NZ$114.5 million once the sale of its life business was completed.
It said it had increased its provisions for Christchurch earthquake related claims by NZ$14.2 million.
Shares in Tower closed on Monday at NZ$1.70. The stock has fallen about 9 percent so far this year, compared with an 11 percent rise in the benchmark top-50 index.
The company declared an unchanged interim dividend of five cents a share, and said the new-shaped business would look at a dividend distribution of 90 to 100 percent of net profit.
The company, which split its New Zealand and Australian operations into separate listed entities in 2006, has said it will concentrate and develop its general insurance business. ($1=NZ$1.23)
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