Ladies and gentlemen,
Chairman of the Management Board
The 2007 financial year at UNIQA was marked by the implementation of our concept of the insurance of a new generation. We are convinced that still greater consideration of the special needs of individual customers and the constant changing of these needs will be of central importance for the continued, sustainable success of an insurance company. For this reason, a significant aspect of our company strategy is the development of flexible products that are adapted to the individual life circumstances of our customers. In line with this strategy, we have taken innovative steps in 2007, toward increased flexibility and individuality in our range of products for insuring personal risks, with products such as SafeLine in motor insurance and FlexSolution in life insurance.
In the life insurance segment, creation of a flexible product architecture with respect to the longevity of the risk coverage is very important for adapting to life situations that change ever more rapidly today. We intend to consistently pursue this goal and demonstrate our innovation and customer orientation in all our markets. In addition to creating a more individualised product range, another central component of our company strategy is further improving and securing the sustainability of the current profit levels achieved through our successful profitoriented growth course. In 2007, we successfully completed the first year of our Profit Improvement Programme 20072010. Our intensive utilisation of cost advantages that naturally arise within a company of our size through an increased level of cross-border activities contributed to this achievement, among other factors.
With a record Group profit before taxes of €340 million, which corresponds to an increase of 43% over the previous year, we more than met the goal for 2007. These results were, of course, impacted by special positive effects from our investments in associated companies as well as the negative consequences of the sub-prime crises, which left its mark on our company as well. We would like to share these successful developments of the past business year with our shareholders by increasing the dividends by 43%, to 50 cents per share. With a return on equity before taxes of 26.2%, UNIQA is among the leaders in an international comparison. However, this very positive development has not been reflected in the share price or market capitalisation of UNIQA. Rather, the difficult situation on the capital markets and the crisis of trust in the area of financial service providers has placed our shares under considerable pressure. We view this as an opportunity for our shares to obtain a positive outlook for the future, as the situation on the capital market calms and investors return to consideration of fundamental data.
In developing our position in the markets of Central and Eastern Europe, our focus currently lies on expanding our market position through investments in organic growth and through intensification of our cooperation with Raiffeisen in international bank assurance. The cornerstone for successful progress has been laid, and extremely positive results have already been seen in some countries with a doubling of the business volume per year in this area. We do not rule out additional acquisitions in the markets of new Europe; however, we will continue to reject high acquisition prices that are not financially justified.
Our employees and partners are central elements of our success. They demonstrate the commitment and readiness for change that is required in order for a company to develop in new directions and compete at an international level. This is an important aspect in securing the future success and independence of our Group. I would, therefore, like to offer my thanks to all our employees and partners.
Vienna, April 2008