* Belgian life profit 259.6 mln euros vs 219 mln euros
* Raises dividend to 1.20 euros per share
(Recasts, adds details from statement and background on
BRUSSELS Feb 20 Insurer Ageas
increased its dividend by half as Belgians looking for the
safety of life insurance products helped it make more money than
expected last year.
The Belgian company raised its dividend to 1.20 euros per
share, 50 percent more than last time, when taking account of a
10-for-one stock exchange last year to reduce the number of its
Analysts polled by Reuters had on average forecast that the
proposed dividend would be 0.98 euros.
Belgium's consumer confidence index reached a three-year low
last year as people became increasingly worried about
unemployment, a situation has led to a rise in the savings rate
to an estimated 14.9 percent of disposable income.
It was 14.4 percent in 2011 and seen by Belgium's central
bank rising to 15.7 percent in 2013.
The country has seen a spate of factory closures, including
the Ford car plant in Genk and parts of ArcelorMittal's
steelworks in Liege.
Ageas reported strong demand for guaranteed savings products
in Belgium in 2012, even though interest rates remained low.
That helped pushed the profit of its Belgian life insurance
division, which trades as AG Insurance, to 259.6 million euros
($346.73 million), compared with 219 million euros forecast on
average by three banks and brokerages polled by Reuters.
"Our inflows and results in life were particularly strong,
notwithstanding the low interest rate environment," Chief
Executive Bart De Smet said in a statement.
The Belgian life result pushed Ageas' overall full-year
insurance profit to 624 million euros ($833.44 million),
compared with 586 million euros expected in the poll.
Ageas also sells insurance for the supermarket group Tesco
in Britain and has operations in Asia.
($1 = 0.7487 euros)
(Reporting By Ben Deighton; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)