FRANKFURT, May 2 (Reuters) - Allianz shareholders will publicly press its top executives next week to address the underperformance of its Pimco fund management unit in the hope that the German insurer will look more closely at management problems there.
Several top 10 shareholders told Reuters last month they wanted Allianz to step up oversight of Pimco, which is losing billions of dollars in outflows from its flagship bond fund after a public falling out between its founder Bill Gross and its co-chief investment officer Mohamed El-Erian that caused the latter to quit.
Fund manager Union Investment, Allianz’s 10th largest shareholder according to Thomson Reuters data, told Reuters on Friday it had decided to go public with its concerns at Allianz’s annual general meeting in Munich on Wednesday because the insurer - Europe’s biggest - still had not responded.
“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 because of problems at Pimco, which makes up the lion’s share of its asset management business earnings.
Pimco contributed 3.2 billion euros ($4.44 billion) or nearly one third of group operating profit in 2013. But its Total Return Fund, the world’s largest bond fund, saw $3.1 billion in outflows in April and over $55 billion in net outflows since last May, data released by Morningstar showed this week.
Allianz has forecast operating profit at its asset management business to decline this year to between 2.5 billion and 2.9 billion euros.
Some large Allianz shareholders want it to rethink the management structure that was put in place at Pimco after El-Erian’s departure - the new configuration has six deputy chief investment officers under Gross - and to scrutinize Gross’s pay, which some feel is too high. The investors also want a detailed long-term plan on how Pimco plans to broaden its focus beyond fixed income.
Several U.S. institutional investors, including retirement funds, said they were monitoring the developments at Pimco and have formally put it on “watch lists,” a signal that they will keep a much closer eye on performance than usual.
Pimco’s management shakeup led Morningstar analysts to downgrade its overall stewardship grade by one notch to a C in March, reflecting a higher degree of uncertainty after the departure of El-Erian and other key personnel. Morningstar analysts also cited reports that Pimco’s atmosphere has long been characterized as a “pressure cooker” and that Gross has demonstrated “at-times severe and reputed retaliatory temperament.”
While Allianz has sought to avoid commenting so far on the Gross-El-Erian spat, its chief executive Michael Diekmann is well aware of shareholders’ concerns over Pimco’s performance and is likely to be girding himself for tough questions on Wednesday.
“You can’t allow it to happen too often that you’re not able to keep up with the competition,” Diekmann told Allianz’s annual results news conference in February. ($1 = 0.7212 Euros) (Editing by Sophie Walker)