* Q2 net insurance profit 195.2 mln euros vs poll 159 mln
* Plans 250 mln euro share buy-back
* Sells UK life business, ups Italian non-life stake
* Shares rise 4.4 pct, top gainers in Europe
(Adds shares, analyst comment, overall profit)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Aug 6 Belgian insurance company Ageas
beat second-quarter profit expectations due to a sharp
rise in income from its life business and announced a new 250
million euro ($334.1 million) share buy-back.
Ageas, the successor to bailed out and broken up
Belgian-Dutch group Fortis, said on Wednesday that higher
capital gains and increased investment inflows, especially in
China and Luxembourg, had boosted earnings of its life insurance
This more than offset its non-life insurance activities,
which took a 24 million euro hit due to a June hailstorm in
Ageas shares rose as much as 4.4 percent to 27.00 euros and
were by far the strongest performers in the FTSEurofirst 300
index of leading European stocks, although this follows
a near 13 percent drop last week after a Dutch court ruled it
should compensate former Fortis shareholders.
"They had higher financial results, meaning they invested
well," Bank Degroof analyst Dirk Peeters said. "The share
buy-back is a clear sign of confidence."
Net profit from insurance operations rose 14 percent to
195.2 million euros, well above the 159 million euro average
forecast in a Reuters poll, even when excluding a 23 million
euro Belgian tax credit.
Ageas said its board had decided to start a new 250 million
share buy-back programme running until July 21, 2015. The
company completed a 200 million euro share buy-back programme in
the past year.
It said the new programme was possible even though it had
set aside 130 million euros that it may need to pay compensation
after a Dutch court ruled last week that Fortis had misled its
shareholders after its initial bailout in September 2008.
The move came despite a call on Tuesday by the lawyer
representing former Fortis shareholders urging Ageas not to
suspend dividend payments or take similar action, such as buying
its own shares.
Including that provision, Ageas's overall net profit was 0.7
million euros, down from 178.6 million euros a year earlier, but
the figure compared favourably with an expected loss of 34
Ageas also said it had agreed to sell its life insurance
activities in Britain, called Ageas Protect, to AIG for
181 million pounds ($305.2 million), allowing the company to
focus on its non-life British business, such as home and motor
cover for supermarket group Tesco.
It also announced on Wednesday an agreement with BNP Paribas
Cardif to take full control of Italian non-life player
UBI Assicurazioni from UBI Banca.
($1 = 0.7482 Euros)
($1 = 0.5930 British Pounds)
(editing by Jane Baird)