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Hannover Re profit jumps 20%


(Reuters) — German reinsurer Hannover Re could make a net profit of €1 billion ($1.1 billion) this year while the dividend payout is likely to be in line with last year, the firm's chief financial officer said after reporting better than expected third-quarter earnings.

The world's third-largest reinsurer posted a 20% rise in third-quarter net profit to €304 million ($332.3 million) on Thursday due to strong results in both its reinsurance business and investments, sending its share price higher.

The figure came in above the average forecast of €252 million ($275.4 million) given in a Reuters poll of banks and brokerages.

After years of falling premiums due to strong competition and few natural catastrophes, which boost prices, reinsurers have preferred to return money to shareholders to writing low-margin business.

Hannover Re was "very well on track" towards earning at least €950 million ($1.04 billion) in net profit this year, it said in a trading statement on Thursday.

"Analysts' expectations are just above €1 billion... I would not rule out that people as smart as financial analysts will be right in the end," Chief Financial Officer Roland Vogel told a media call, adding there was a "high likelihood" that dividends would match last year's levels.

Hannover Re paid a dividend for 2015 of €4.75 ($5.19), including a special dividend of €1.50 ($1.64).

"Hannover Re may surprise on the upside with an increased special dividend," Barclays analysts said in a note to clients, predicting a special dividend of €2.87 ($3.14).

Hannover Re's shares were up 4.1% at a two-month high of €104.60 ($114.33) by 0828 GMT, when the STOXX Europe 600 insurance index was up 2.9%, and were the top gainer on the German MDAX index of mid-cap German companies.

Price pressures were likely to remain in the January renewal period for reinsurance, Mr. Vogel said.

Hannover Re's exposure to Hurricane Matthew, which is estimated to have caused up to $8 billion in insured losses in the United States and Caribbean last month, was just under €100 million ($109.3 million) and would be a factor in fourth-quarter earnings, Mr. Vogel said.

Reinsurance markets would be largely unaffected by Donald Trump becoming the next U.S. president, Vogel added. The United States is the largest single market for Hannover Re, accounting for 30% of its premiums.