Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear shareholders,
Unambiguous words provide the guidance we need in uncertain times. Not necessarily security, but at least guidance. This short letter to you therefore contains two simple messages:
- Everything in UNIQA’s own hands is currently going according to plan. The excellent 2021 financial year, the first of our new “UNIQA 3.0 – Seeding The Future” strategic programme, provides proof of this. Our core business also performed excellently in the first weeks of 2022.
- Everything that is out of our hands – the far-reaching consequences of the Russian Federation’s devastating war of aggression against Ukraine – we are trying to manage as best we can. The course of the 2022 financial year, which we were looking forward to with joy and confidence just a few months ago, is now naturally associated with considerable uncertainties. This statement pains us in our responsibility towards you, but it reflects the honesty required.
Significant improvement of the core business 2021
We grew 14.2 per cent above our expectations, supported by the initial full integration of the former AXA companies in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. With a premium volume of €6,358 million, we recorded an expense ratio of 27.4 per cent, which was an improvement of two percentage points, and a significantly reduced combined ratio of 93.7 per cent. This is despite the fact that our payments to customers for losses they incurred in connection with storms amounted to a record gross sum of €267 million and that the burden from major losses was also significantly above the long-term average. On the other hand, relief continues to come from so-called “basic losses”, which reflects the excellent technical profitability of our private client business, and from the contributions of our international reinsurance partners.
Encouraging capital earnings and solvency ratio
Net investment income of €648 million is €143 million or 28 per cent above the previous year’s level. The three most important reasons for this are gains from equity funds and fixed-interest securities of just under €90 million, unrealized gains of €27 million at UNIQA Ventures and higher income from our participation in the STRABAG SE construction group of €12 million. The average return on our new investments (totalling around €1.8 billion) rose from 2.07 per cent to 2.3 per cent. Our solvency capital requirement (SCR) ratio according to Solvency II increased noticeably from 170 per cent to 196 per cent.
We are working actively and with commitment on the European Union’s Green Deal. After joining the global Net-ZeroAsset Owner Alliance, we also applied to join the Green Finance Alliance in Austria initiated by the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. Rapid growth in the personal interest of many colleagues in this topic can be seen within our company, although we cannot yet estimate the total resources required to implement all the goals in sufficient detail.
Annual result 2021 above profit forecast, dividend at pre-pandemic levels
Earnings before taxes amount to €382 million and are therefore once again clearly above the profit forecast of €330–€350 million, which was already raised in the summer. With a tax rate of 17 per cent, the net profit for the year of €315 million allows us to propose a dividend of €0.55 per share to the Annual General Meeting in May, in line with the pre-pandemic levels of the 2018 financial year (€0.53 per share). The payout ratio is 53.5 per cent, which is within our strategic range of 50–60 per cent.
“We look back on an exceptionally successful 2021 with a strong performance in the core business, good results in investments and very satisfactory development of our profitability.”
The 2021 financial year was one of the best in our company’s history, perhaps even our best ever. And it was a source of happiness and pride for us.
The war in the East
Seven weeks later, everything was different. The Russian Federation’s attack on neighbouring Ukraine on 24 February 2022 caused a humanitarian catastrophe that stunned us all and in the face of which economic consequences pale – even if the latter will continue to leave their mark globally for many years to come.
“The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine is the absolute opposite of what we stand for: living better together.”
UNIQA Ukraine is the second largest insurance company in the young country. With enthusiasm, pride and discipline, our 850 colleagues serve around 1.2 million customers between Lviv in the west and Kharkiv in the east and generate around €100 million in premiums. We were still working for our clients as far as technically possible weeks after the war began, registering claims, paying benefits and providing round-the-clock assistance through our Medical Call Centre.
Vienna, April 2022
on behalf of the Management Board