Giant reinsurer liquidates entire stock portfolio to pay hurricane and earthquake costs

by Oliver Suess, Bloomberg 09 Nov 2017
For Hannover Re, the world’s third-biggest reinsurer, it’s time to take profits in the stock market.
The German company said on Wednesday that it sold its entire stock portfolio, worth about 953 million euros ($1.1 billion), to help pay for claims from hurricanes and earthquakes.
It was “time to realize the gains in our portfolio of listed equities,” chief financial officer Roland Vogel said on a call with reporters. Global stock markets have rallied for more than eight years, with many reaching records. This year, Germany’s benchmark DAX Index has advanced 17%, while the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index has added 16%.
The reinsurer booked a gain of 223.3 million euros in the third quarter on the sale of its stock portfolio, which it had built by adding large groups of shares in August 2015 and January 2016. The decision means Hannover Re will no longer need to set aside money to protect itself from the risk of a stock-market crash. It will instead use that money to grow the business in areas hit by recent disasters such as hurricanes in the Caribbean and earthquakes in Mexico, Vogel said.
The proceeds of the stock sell-off will also help Hannover Re to keep the total amount of money it distributes to shareholders unchanged, Vogel said. For 2016, the company paid out 3.50 euros a share plus a special dividend of 1.50 euros.
Hannover Re shares have gained about 6% this year, increasing the company’s market value to 13 billion euros.
Copyright Bloomberg 2017