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AXA insurance reports fourfold profit leap

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French insurance group AXA reported on Thursday a fourfold profit leap least year to 3.6 billion euros, beating analysts’ forecasts, and saying it would focus on raising profitability this year.

The main difference from the results for 2008, when most financial groups were hit by the global financial crisis, was a turnaround totalling 2.6 billion euros in non-operational book-keeping items related to a recovery in the value of assets.

Net profit for last year totalled 3.6 billion euros (4.9 billion dollars) compared with estimates by analysts of 3.3 billion euros.

AXA is a leading global insurance group, and its chief executive Henri de Castries said that the objective this year was to “optimise margins in all areas of activity.”

In 2009 however, operating profit fell by 6.0 percent to 3.8 billion euros, mainly because of a 30-percent fall in profit from damage insurance and a 41.0-percent fall in profits for asset management because the average level of assets under management had fallen.

Sales fell by 3.0 percent to 90.1 billion euros. The ratio of payments to premiums fell because of an increase in claims, as was the case for damage claims. The ratio was 99.0 percent from 95.5 percent in 2008.

The group recommended a 38.0-percent increase in the dividend to 0.55 euros.