* Q1 earnings from ordinary activities 116.8 mln eur
* Divestment income flatters earnings
* Combined ratio improves to 98.3 pct
(Adds CEO quotes)
VIENNA, May 17 Austrian insurer Uniqa
nearly doubled first-quarter
earnings from ordinary activities to 116.8 million euros ($150.9
million), highlighting its earnings power before a planned share
issue to boost its free float.
Excluding a gain of 49.1 million euros from selling hotel
assets, profit rose 14 percent.
"This was a very good start. After the first quarter we now
have something to show off," Chief Executive Andreas
Brandstetter told Reuters.
He left open whether the share sale that will boost its free
float to as much as 49 percent from just 7.5 percent now would
take place this year or next, saying market conditions would
Uniqa plans to use the proceeds to fuel expansion in eastern
Europe, where it is seeking acquisitions worth up to 150 million
euros. "I can imagine that something will come up in the course
of the next 18 months," Brandstetter said.
Profits from eastern Europe fell to 1.7 million euros in the
first quarter from 4.3 million a year earlier, hit in part by a
bitter price war in Romania, but Brandstetter said this trend
"I am sure that we will make this up over the course of the
year," he said, reiterating Uniqa's forecast that 2013 group
profit will grow significantly from 205 million in 2012.
Its combined ratio, a measure of profitability in the
property and accident segments, improved to 98.3 percent from
99.4 percent a year earlier.
Group embedded value after minorities swelled 86 percent to
2.86 billion euros in 2012, it said.
($1 = 0.7742 euros)
(Reporting by Angelika Gruber, Editing by Michael Shields)