Nordic insurer Sampo lifted by strong Q4 earnings

Sampo Group's logo is pictured at the company's headquarters in Helsinki
FILE PHOTO: Sampo Group's logo is pictured at the company's headquarters in Helsinki, Finland, November 7, 2018. Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva via REUTERS

February 9, 2022

HELSINKI (Reuters) -Finnish financial group Sampo reported stronger than expected fourth quarter earnings on Wednesday boosted by its core insurance operations, sending its share up more than 2%.

The pan-Nordic insurer reported a pretax profit of 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion), compared with a loss of 675 million in the same quarter a year earlier, beating the mean estimate of 998 million euros in a poll provided by the company.

October-December profit before taxes amounted to 452 million euros excluding one-offs from Sampo significantly reducing its holding in pan-Nordic bank Nordea to focus on the insurance business.

Sampo is still Nordea’s largest owner with 6.2% of shares and it gave no time frame for the sale of its remaining stake.

The insurer has also yet to announce what it will do with the capital it will get from selling off Nordea.

Sampo said the group’s combined ratio for its property and casualty (P&C) insurance business improved 2 percentage points to 81.4% in 2021, beating the mean estimate of 82.8%. A ratio below 100 means the insurer earns more in premiums than it pays out in claims.

“The result was supported by excellent profitability in our largest subsidiary, If P&C, which achieved a combined ratio of 81.3 per cent and underwriting profit of 891 million euros in 2021, representing growth of 15% year-on-year excluding COVID-19 effects,” Sampo’s Chief Executive Torbjorn Magnusson said in a statement.

In December, Sampo increased to 100% its holding in UK-based insurer Hastings, which underperformed in the quarter compared with Sampo’s Nordic businesses, which all beat market expectations.

Hastings’ fourth-quarter profit before taxes amounted to 11 million euros; analysts had on average expected 36 million.

“Hastings remained disciplined in the face of high price competition in the UK motor insurance market,” Sampo said.

Sampo’s board proposed a dividend of 4.10 euros per share, including an insurance dividend of 1.70 euros per share.

($1 = 0.8763 euros)

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)