AG Insurance, the Belgian subsidiary of insurance group Ageas, says it is available for a solution for the troubled Liège life insurer Integrale.
Three weeks ago, CEO Hans De Cuyper of the largest Belgian insurer AG Insurance was promoted to CEO of the listed parent group Ageas
with activities from Portugal to Vietnam. These days, a typical Belgian case may be on his plate: that of the Liège insurer Integrale, a subsidiary of the controversial intercommunal group Nethys / Publifin for months. When Integrale looked for a partner through an official procedure a few months ago, AG Insurance ‘looked but made no offer’, says De Cuyper.
Now the situation at Integrale is dire: the National Bank appointed a special commissioner this week, a procedure that could lead to the sale or liquidation of the insurer in financial straits. ‘It is important that there is a solution for all members of pension plans. That is a field in which AG Insurance has a lot of experience. We are available to sit around the table ”, says De Cuyper in the margin of the presentation of the quarterly figures.
The first weeks as CEO were not evident in corona times. ‘The performance and continuity of the activities are top and the motivation of the employees is good,’ says De Cuyper. But he would also like to go more out into the field to see employees and partners in the many foreign joint ventures. De Cuyper still knows many partners in Asia from when he himself worked in Hong Kong and Malaysia. ‘But then the group was not yet active in Vietnam and the Philippines. I would like to visit the partners there. It is difficult to decide strategic matters by teleconference. You have to be able to look each other in the eye ‘.
The change at the top at Ageas, with the previous CEO Bart De Smet moving to the chair, was seen as an evolution rather than a revolution. Nevertheless, De Cuyper has already made a change of management: operational director Antonio Cana will be given final responsibility for Europe and development director Filip Coremans will be responsible for Asia.
Our performance in Asia is very strong, but that is still too little known to investors.
‘It is important that, in addition to the regional management in Hong Kong, someone explicitly looks at Asia from Brussels,’ says De Cuyper. It also fits in with a plan to better highlight Ageas’s investor story in Asia. “Our performance in Asia is very strong, but that is still too little known to investors.”
Asia yielded slightly more profit this year than Belgium. Although the Asian division seemed to have lost some shine at first sight: profit fell by 63 percent in the third quarter to 41.2 million euros and performed below expectations. This is partly due to the swallowing of capital losses on the investment portfolio due to falls in the price of Chinese bank shares in the portfolio. But the underlying figures are good, De Cuyper emphasizes. Life insurance premium income was up 13 percent in local currency.
De Cuyper hopes to be able to finalize the settlement regarding Ageas predecessor Fortis by the middle of next year. EUR 971 million in damages has already been paid. “This year a number of more will receive an advance.” We have to wait until next year for the balance and the final settlement. There are still some complex files to be examined.
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