February 7, 2018 / 9:26 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Australia's AMP more than doubles FY profit as wealth protection arm recovers

* AMP reports full-year underlying earnings of A$1.04 bln

* AMP expects to update on outcome of insurance unit review by May (Adds update for insurance unit, share price)

By Paulina Duran

SYDNEY, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Australia’s AMP Ltd more than doubled its full-year underlying earnings, boosted by growth in its Australian wealth protection business and AMP Bank.

Australia’s largest wealth manager also said on Thursday that a review of its insurance units was “well progressed, with all alternatives being considered.”

AMP said last year it would focus on “growth businesses” - wealth, AMP Bank and AMP Capital - and finding value for its troubled AMP Wealth Protection, AMP Mature and AMP New Zealand units.

“AMP is in discussions with a number of interested parties,” the company said in statement, adding it expected to announce an outcome at or before its annual general meeting in May.

It made no mention of a planned A$500 million ($390 million) share buyback that was indefinitely postponed last August to consider other capital management options.

Strong operating earnings growth from AMP’s banking and capital divisions lifted underlying profit for the year by 114 percent to A$1.04 billion ($814 million), although the core wealth arm posted a marginal earnings decline.

Compared with a A$486 million underlying profit a year ago, the result topped the average estimate of A$1 billion, according to 13 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares in AMP were 3 percent higher at A$5.10 in early trading, while the wider market was slightly weaker.

The previous year’s underlying earnings were hit by a spike in policy cancellations and payouts, plus a A$1.3 billion writedown on its life insurance unit.

On a net profit measure, AMP returned to the black, posting earnings of A$848 million, compared with a net loss of A$344 million last year.

Revenue rose to A$18.36 billion from A$14.80 billion a year ago, with Australian wealth protection earnings recovering to A$110 million from a loss of A$415 million.

“We’ve driven double-digit growth in AMP Bank’s operating earnings while responding to tightening market regulation. We remain on track to double the value of the bank by full-year 2021,” Chief Executive Officer Craig Meller said.

$1 = 1.2776 Australian dollars Reporting by Sandhya Sampath in Bengaluru and Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Jane Wardell and Stephen Coates

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