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Vienna Insurance Seeks Purchases in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria

Date: 31.08.2009

"I am still convinced that an investment in Poland or Hungary and maybe even in Bulgaria will give more returns than a company in the UK or the Netherlands," Geyer said in an interview for the Bloomberg agency

Vienna Insurance Group, Austria's biggest insurer and owner of Bulgaria's Bulstrad Vienna Insurance, wants to acquire life and general insurance businesses in Poland, Hungary, Germany and Bulgaria, Chief Executive Officer Guenter Geyer said.

"I am still convinced that an investment in Poland or Hungary and maybe even in Bulgaria will give more returns than a company in the UK or the Netherlands," Geyer said in an interview for the Bloomberg agency. "I had hoped that AIG would sell" in Poland or Hungary, he added.

The company has a "war chest" of EUR 1.2 B for acquisitions and is focused on eastern Europe where premiums are growing at a faster rate, Geyer said. Last year, the Vienna-based company bought Erste Group Bank AG's insurance unit to become the biggest insurer in eastern Europe.

Vienna Insurance climbed 3.6% to EUR 35.22, bringing this year's gain to 46% and valuing the company at EUR 4.5 B. That made it the third-best performer on the 30-member Bloomberg Europe 500 Insurance Index, which has climbed 4.6% over the same period.

wienerstaedtische.com

Vienna yesterday reported a 27% decline in second- quarter profit on lower investment returns. It plans to cut 1,100 jobs by the end of 2010 in a bid to reduce costs by EUR 100 M. This year, the insurer slashed 900 positions among its workforce of about 25,000.

In Hungary, the insurer is represented by Union Biztosító and Erste Sparkassen Biztosító while it has six companies operating in Poland. In Germany, Vienna owns the Wiesbaden-based InterRisk Versicherungen.

The insurer is also looking at expanding in Italy and South Tyrol, Geyer said.

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