November 28, 2012 / 6:31 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Swiss Life takes $618 mln hit on German business

* Charge to cut FY net profit to double-digit mln Sfr

* AWD to operate as “Swiss Life Select” from 2013

* Dividend unchanged at 4.50 Sfr

* Shares fall 3.9 percent, underperform index (Adds details, analyst comments, shares; rewrites)

By Martin de Sa‘Pinto

ZURICH, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Swiss Life is writing down the value of its German advisory arm by 576 million Swiss francs ($618 million), hammering its profits as it battles to draw a line under a disastrous acquisition four years ago.

The Zurich-based insurer bought Germany’s AWD for 1.2 billion euros in 2008.

However, it has been beset by problems since, with several client advisers leaving and claims it improperly pushed products in Germany and Austria. AWD has denied the allegations.

Swiss Life said on Wednesday it would drop the AWD name and run the business under the “Swiss Life Select” brand from 2013.

“One of the biggest and most costly acquisitions ever,” is how Kepler Capital Markets analyst Fabrizio Croce described the purchase of AWD as Swiss Life took a knife to the unit’s value on its books.

The insurer said it expected an operating profit of about 850 million francs for 2012, but that the charge on AWD would reduce net profit to a double-digit million for the year.

At 0900 GMT, its shares were down 3.9 percent at 120.4 francs against a European insurers index off 0.4 percent.

Swiss Life said it would propose an unchanged dividend of 4.50 francs for the year.

Sarasin analyst Martin Schwab said the dividend, representing a yield of around 3.6 percent compared to the Swiss sector average of 5 percent, would disappoint some investors.

“However, based on today’s news and in light of the still undemanding valuation, we see further upside potential and reiterate our buy recommendation on Swiss Life,” he said.

The group said it planned to achieve a return on equity of 8-10 percent by 2015, after hitting 7.7 percent for the first half of 2012.

It will also look for cost savings of 130-160 million francs, and said 300-400 jobs may be cut in Germany and Switzerland over the next three years.

$1 = 0.9315 Swiss francs Editing by Richard Pullin and Mark Potter

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