The listing Friday on the New York Stock Exchange of Allianz AGs American depositary receipts brought the Munich insurance giant a step closer to its goal of acquiring enough U.S. financial services companies to become the worlds fifth-largest insurer.
Henning Schulte-Noelle, chairman of Allianzs board of management, said his main strategy is to build up its U.S. life insurance business. Allianz reaped about $7.7 billion last year in life insurance premiums from its U.S. operations.
Thats not small, Mr. Schulte-Noelle said, but the U.S. market is so huge we dont really register. Thats why we want to expand here.
Apart from life insurance, the U.S. insurance market is not growing much, Mr. Schulte-Noelle. He was more enthusiastic about growth prospects in life insurance, and said that he intends to acquire U.S. insurance firms, life and nonlife, to position Allianz better here.
He intends to concentrate not just on California and the East Coast areas with strong growth potential but on the entire U.S. market. Allianz currently has three U.S. insurance subsidiaries as nonlife insurers Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America in Minneapolis, Firemans Fund in Novato, Calif., and Allianz Insurance Co. in Burbank, Calif. It also has recently purchased two asset management companies in California Pimco in Newport Beach and Nicholas-Applegate in San Diego.
Analyst Konrad Becker of the Munich-based investment firm Merck Finck & Co. said Allianz could never grow to the No. 5 position it seeks without making acquisitions. Everybody knows they are looking, he said.
He also said Allianz may not be done with asset management acquisitions, since it has almost no presence in mutual funds. Nicholas-Applegate and Pimco mostly deal with institutional investors and the bond market.
Mr. Becker added that the aging of the baby boomers and recent regulatory changes in the United States will make life insurance and mutual funds very profitable businesses soon, as private investors in the United States and Europe seek to save and invest for retirement.
What could create problems for Allianz is the still unresolved issue of Holocaust insurance asset restitution. Mr. Schulte-Noelle said he hopes Allianzs U.S. expansion will not be influenced by the issue.
He noted that Allianz was a founding member of a German government/industry fund to reimburse Nazi-era slave laborers and of the Washington-based International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims. He also said Allianz has cooperated with restitution efforts as well.
Nobody can accuse us of not having done anything to process these incidents well and in the interest of the victims, Mr. Schulte-Noelle said.
Mr. Becker said Allianz is so committed to expanding in the U.S. market that it will do whatever is necessary to minimize any impact from Holocaust issues.
Allianz ADRs opened Friday at $34.875 and closed down 6.25 cents, or 0.18%, at $34.8125.