UPDATE 2-Polish insurer PZU offers shareholders higher dividend

Wed May 14, 2014 9:02am EDT

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* Mulls bond issue for acquisitions, dividend

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* Expects growth in gross premiums in coming quarters (Recasts, adds CFO comment, share price)

By Adrian Krajewski

WARSAW, May 14 (Reuters) - Poland's PZU, eastern Europe's largest insurer, on Wednesday proposed to increase its dividend payout on last year's earnings to 54 zlotys per share - the biggest payout since its market debut in 2010 - to boost shareholder returns.

The state-controlled group's dividend proposal will amount to 4.66 billion zlotys ($1.5 billion) in total. PZU also said it could raise up to 500 million euros ($685.3 million) via a bond issue to fund acquisitions and free up capital for dividends.

"PZU's policy for the years 2013-2015 aims at raising total shareholder return," PZU said in a statement. The insurer said it planned dividend payouts of up to 100 percent of its net profit, bolstered by up to 3 billion zlotys from excess capital.

PZU's shares were up 2.2 percent by 1243 GMT.

The group, which has about a third of Poland's insurance market, has been trying to expand via acquisition to help to defend its market share against rivals such as Germany's Talanx , which owns insurance group Warta in Poland.

PZU, with a stock market value of $12 billion, last month bought the bulk of British insurer RSA's eastern European operations for some 360 million euros in its biggest ever deal.

The company also said it had purchased the medical business from Poland's No.1 refiner PKN Orlen for 48 million zlotys to support its insurance offer with health services.

PZU said it would consider a senior bond issue to raise 300-500 million euros this year to finance the RSA purchase. It is also looking at possibly raising money via a subordinated bond deal, but is waiting for a green light from regulators, which may come as late as next year.

PZU wants to split its dividend payout from 2013 profits to meet its own and regulatory capital requirements. Following an interim dividend payout of 20 zlotys per share last year, PZU plans to distribute 17 zlotys per share in September and another 17 zlotys per share in January 2015.

"The split would allow us to propose a dividend from 2014 higher than 75 percent of the annual profit," PZU CFO Przemyslaw Dabrowski said.

The insurer reported a larger-than-expected 9 percent fall in its first-quarter net profit to 760.4 million zlotys, hit by one-offs and a 1.6 percent dip in gross written premiums to 4.354 billion zlotys.

PZU now expects gross written premiums to grow in the coming quarters.

"The market should grow by up to 1 percent this year when it comes to gross written premiums," Dabrowski said. "PZU wants to move in line with the market. The coming quarters should rather show growth in annual gross premiums at PZU." ($1 = 3.0501 Polish Zlotys) ($1 = 0.7296 Euros) (Editing by Jane Merriman)

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