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AXA full-year profit rises 12% on life insurance premiums

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(Bloomberg) — AXA SA, France’s largest insurer, said 2015 profit rose 12 percent, helped by higher life insurance sales in Europe and Asia. The shares rose.

Net income climbed to 5.62 billion euros ($6.2 billion) from 5.02 billion euros a year earlier, the Paris-based company said in a statement on Thursday. That beat the 5.39 billion-euro average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The shares rose as much as 4.1 percent in Paris and were trading at 20.1 euros at 09:35 a.m.

AXA, led by Chief Executive Officer Henri de Castries, has grown in emerging markets from China to Colombia over the past five years. Earnings at the life and savings division, the company’s largest, rose 12 percent to 3.5 billion euros, helped by higher sales of health-protection policies. The insurer plans to pay a 1.10-euro dividend per share, up 16 percent from the previous year.

“In life & savings, we continued to grow our earnings, benefiting from our disciplined business mix, and notably we preserved our investment margin despite the low rate environment,” de Castries said in the statement. “Our gearing and solvency ratios remained well within our target range, underlining the strength of our balance sheet.”

Earnings from property and casualty rose to 2.23 billion euros from 2.16 billion euros, helped by currency movements, AXA said.

“There is little in here to change our fundamental view that AXA can generate attractive earnings and cash flow with a fairly stable balance sheet,” Farooq Hanif, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. said in a note to clients. “We remain buyers.”

AXA has fallen 23 percent so far this year in Paris trading as global stocks declined amid concerns over Chinese growth and oil prices. The insurer’s adjusted return on equity was 14.1 percent in 2015, down from 14.5 percent a year before, and within the insurer’s target range for profitability. Asset management units had net inflows of 45 billion euros, according to the statement.