By Sarah Jones
RSA Insurance Group plc reported its first full-year profit since Stephen Hester took charge, restoring dividends after a string of asset sales and cost-cutting measures.
Pretax profit was 275 million pounds [$425.9 million], compared with a loss of 244 million pounds [$377.9 million] in 2013, RSA said Thursday. The insurer plans to pay a final dividend of 2 pence a share after an accounting scandal in Ireland forced the cancellation of a 2013 payout. Chief Financial Officer Richard Houghton plans to step down in May.
“2014 was an important year for RSA,” Hester said in the statement. “The company made good progress in the face of some tough realities. RSA is much better positioned.”
This month marked Hester’s first anniversary at the British insurer. In his first year on the job, the former CEO for Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc carried out a $1.3 billion share sale and reversed a decade of acquisitions to rebuild capital. RSA has raised 800 million pounds [$1.2 billion] after selling businesses throughout Europe, Canada, China and most recently India.
The company Thursday increased its 2016 annualized cost reduction target to more than 210 million pounds [$325.2 million], up from more than 180 million [$278.8 million], and set a new target of more than 250 million pounds [$387.2 million] for 2017.
For 2014, the insurer reported an underwriting loss of 107 million pounds [$165.7 million] in Ireland as remediation continued, and reiterated its plans to return the Irish unit to underwriting profitability in 2016.
Total net written premiums dropped 8 percent to 7.5 billion pounds [$11.6 billion], RSA said in the statement.
Copyright 2015 Bloomberg.