* 2012 dividend raised 9 pct to 1.20 eur/shr
* Combined ratio 96.65 pct
* Shares down 0.4 pct
(Adds detail on weather, Austria, updates shares)
By Georgina Prodhan
VIENNA, April 3 Vienna Insurance Group
raised its dividend for 2012 after confirming record results,
helped by a solid performance in Austria and the Czech Republic
that offset higher than average bad-weather claims.
Emerging Europe's biggest insurer said on Wednesday its
pretax profit grew 5 percent to 587 million euros as premiums
rose, while its combined ratio - a key measure of profitability
- was steady at 96.65 percent.
Profit was boosted by a 22 increase at its property and
Earnings from life insurance fell 6 percent, largely due to
Austria, its biggest market, where an unfavourable tax law has
discouraged customers. In Austria overall, pretax profit rose 1
Vienna Insurance raised the dividend by 9 percent to 1.20
euros ($1.54) per share.
When it reported preliminary results on Jan. 24, it gave no
targets for 2013, saying there were too many unpredictable
factors at work. It said the same on Wednesday.
Group consolidated premiums rose 9 percent to 9.7 billion
Shares in Vienna Insurance were down 0.4 percent at 37.10
euros by 0951 GMT, reversing earlier gains and broadly in line
with the European insurance sector.
Chief Executive Peter Hagen said claims related to bad
weather had cost the company 150 million euros, far more than in
an average year, with Austria the biggest contributor.
The east of the Alpine republic is suffering its coldest
start to the spring season in almost seven decades, according to
the country's meteorological office.
For the first time, Vienna Insurance took in the majority of
its premiums from central and eastern Europe, where it has
established leading positions in the Czech Republic, Slovakia
and Romania, helped by acquisitions.
In the Czech Republic, its biggest foreign market, the group
increased profits by 4 percent and had its best combined ratio,
but in Romania, which is struggling to recover from the depths
of a 2009 recession, it made a pretax loss of 20 million euros.
($1 = 0.7789 euros)
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)