* Allianz makes strong comeback from financial crisis
* But shareholders concerned about Pimco
* Investors pull $55 bln from Pimco Total Return Fund in last year
By Jonathan Gould
MUNICH, May 7 (Reuters) - Top Allianz executives are set to face a grilling on Wednesday from shareholders worried about a wobbly performance at its Pimco fund management unit.
Europe’s biggest insurer has made a strong comeback from the financial crisis, boosting net profit by 15 percent to 6 billion euros ($8.3 billion) last year and raising its dividend by nearly one fifth to 5.30 euros per share.
But shareholders, including some of Allianz’s largest, told Reuters last month they were concerned about Pimco, the bond powerhouse whose reputation has been tarnished by a run of poor returns and the departure of CEO Mohamed El-Erian amid a row with co-founder Bill Gross.
Over the last year, Pimco has seen investors pull $55 billion from its flagship bond fund, The Pimco Total Return Fund, which is overseen by Gross.
Three top shareholders told Reuters they wanted Allianz to rethink the six-person management structure that was put in place at Pimco after El-Erian’s departure and provide greater detail on Pimco’s long-term plan to broaden its focus beyond fixed income, among other things.
Allianz has said little publicly about Pimco’s performance or the internal disagreements at the fund manager.
The insurer’s head of investor relations, Oliver Schmidt, said in an interview published on Allianz’s Internet site that the company was working to address investor concerns about asset management and the fallout from rock bottom interest rates.
“We are currently in the midst of extensive discussions with investors regarding both our investment and our product strategy,” Schmidt said.
Extensive discussions may not satisfy everyone, however.
Fund manager Union Investment, Allianz’s 10th-largest shareholder according to Thomson Reuters data, said it would make its concerns public at the shareholder meeting.
“The Allianz share is currently showing a clear Pimco discount,” Union fund manager Ingo Speich told Reuters.
Allianz’s share price has underperformed the STOXX Europe 600 insurance index by around 4.5 percent since the start of the year.
Investors are also keen to hear plans about Allianz’s own management structure, given that the contracts of six of Allianz’s 11 board members -- including Chief Executive Michael Diekmann -- are due to expire at the end of the year.
Diekmann, who turns 60 in December, has not tipped his hand whether he wants to continue in the job and if so, for how long.
Allianz has previously said that its supervisory board would take up the issue of board positions in October, far too late for some investors, who fear it may add to uncertainty. ($1 = 0.7205 Euros) (Reporting by Jonathan Gould, editing by Thomas Atkins and Susan Thomas)