(Repeats to correct spelling of Colombia in 2nd paragraph)
* 2013 net revenue rises 2 pct to 91 bln euros
* Net income up 14 pct at constant exchange rates
* Proposes 0.81 euro full-year dividend, up 13 pct
By Maya Nikolaeva and Matthieu Protard
PARIS, Feb 21 French insurance group AXA
is looking for more acquisitions in emerging markets,
the company said after posting a 14 percent rise in full-year
net income and lifting its dividend by 13 percent.
Faced with low interest rates in the United States and euro
zone, AXA has sold some of its businesses in developed markets
and spent 5 billion euros ($6.86 billion) since 2010 on
acquiring companies in the likes of China and Colombia.
Many investors have fled high-growth emerging markets since
the United States began tapering its bond-buying monetary
stimulus towards the end of last year, sending emerging market
currencies plummeting. AXA, however, views the currency turmoil
as a buying opportunity.
"One aspect of the depreciation in emerging market
currencies is that it gives us new opportunities to invest in
acquisitions on lower prices, and that is surely what we are
looking at," Deputy CEO Denis Duverne said.
One Paris-based analyst said that possible acquisitions
could be aimed at increasing market share in the countries where
AXA is already present rather than tapping new markets.
"AXA said that they could eventually make some other
acquisitions in Southeast Asia, like Thailand, but they are
almost where they want to be," the analyst said, adding that it
is already present in Brazil and Colombia.
AXA, Europe's second-biggest insurer behind Germany's
Allianz, declined to give an indication of how much
money it has earmarked for deals but said it has pencilled in
1.2 billion euros for other investments, most of which will be
spent on IT, marketing and expansion of its retail network.
The group's 2013 results reflected an improving economic
environment in the United States, helping to lift net income to
4.48 billion euros, against 4.06 billion in 2012 and a consensus
estimate of 4.96 billion euros in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll
Net revenue was up 2 percent at 91 billion euros, helped by
stronger growth in AXA's life, property and casualty businesses,
as well as a recovery in asset management.
Concerns about insurers' ability to meet life insurance
guarantees have also eased as European interest rates have
climbed from the lows seen early last year.
"It is favourable for insurers when interest rates rise; it
helps us reinvest in higher yields," Duverne said.
AXA was also able to trim its debt target, forecasting
gearing of 23-25 percent through to 2015, compared with 25
Such prudence means that major acquisitions are not
expected, Chief Executive Henri de Castries said, though his
deputy pointed out that emerging markets are a different
"We are disciplined in the way we look at our acquisitions.
We pay the right price," Duverne said.
Shares in AXA were up by 0.2 percent at 1628 GMT.
($1 = 0.7293 euros)
(Editing by David Goodman)