April 23, 2018 / 10:37 AM / 5 months ago

Munich Re would welcome an anchor investor, CEO says

MUNICH (Reuters) - Munich Re (MUVGn.DE) would welcome a long-term investor taking a significant stake in the company as the world’s largest reinsurer eyes a return to profit growth this year, its CEO told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Joachim Wenning, the CEO of German Reinsurer Munich Re, attends the company's annual shareholder meeting in Munich, Germany April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

Joachim Wenning’s comments come as Japan’s SoftBank (9984.T) is in talks to take a stake in rival Swiss Re (SRENH.S), and after other German corporate titans including Daimler (DAIGn.DE) and Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) have attracted big investors from China over the past year.

“In principle, we would welcome an anchor investor,” Wenning said in an interview, noting U.S. investor Warren Buffett once held 12-13 percent of Munich Re.

But he added he was not searching for such an investor, and declined to say whether Munich Re had received approaches.

Wenning, a year at the helm as CEO, faces shareholders on Wednesday at the company’s annual general meeting. Profit has declined for each of the past five years, but Wenning is confident of an upturn in 2018 and beyond.

“We’ve reached a turnaround and our profit target for 2018 is higher than last year,” he said, speaking in the World Room of his Munich headquarters.

Wenning’s optimism contrasts with credit ratings agency Fitch, which said in a report last week its outlook for the global reinsurance sector remained negative, due to fierce competition and low interest rates.

Munich Re eked out a small profit in 2017 after a spate of hurricanes and other natural catastrophes in North America prompted record claims to insurers across the industry.

In a hint of what shareholders can expect on Wednesday, Wenning said damages from natural catastrophes were within the bounds of Munich Re’s modeling and underwriting policies.

“2017 was of course clearly under our expectations for a normal year,” he added.

Wenning said the company was very confident in its profit guidance of 2.3 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for this year, and around 2.8 billion from 2020, thanks to growth opportunities it has identified in its classic reinsurance business.

Munich Re has analyzed regions where it is under-represented and sees potential, he said, though he declined to be more specific other than saying one could never go wrong by doing more in the United States.

Some banks, such as HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and UBS, have recently lifted their price targets for Munich Re shares, which have risen more than 8 percent this year.

Munich Re is braced for Britain’s departure from the European Union next year, having applied in March for licenses to operate there as it would any country outside the EU.

Wenning said it was a bureaucratic process that cost more than 10 million euros. “But it is unavoidable because Britain is and will remain a big market,” he said.

Editing by Arno Schuetze and Mark Potter

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