The IMF is currently forecasting economic growth of 3.9 per cent for Austria.
However, any forecast regarding the overall economic development in our markets is currently associated with greater uncertainty than it has been for a long time. The consequences of the war in Ukraine, the pandemic situation, the inflation trend and the associated reaction of the central banks as well as the further development on the international capital markets are all very difficult to assess at the moment.
The ECB is still keeping key interest rates unchanged despite rising inflation. However, the pandemic-related PEPP bond-buying programme will come to an end in the first quarter of 2022. According to the ECB, a temporary growth in inflation is expected, which will return to normal in 2022. Whether this assessment is justified will become clear in the further course of the year.
In contrast to the overall economic environment, we continue to assess the situation in our core technical business as solid. Our insurance business has shown great resilience in the pandemic. Our customers did not waive their insurance coverage despite the economic challenges, meaning that the rate of cancellations remained very moderate for the given conditions. This also makes us optimistic about the premium volume for 2022.
However, due to the conflict in Ukraine triggered by the Russian attack and the related sanctions, we cannot make any meaningful forecast on the business performance in these two countries at present. At Group level, however, this represents less than 3 per cent of premiums written.
The claims expense directly related to Covid-19 has already been fully recognised in 2020 and therefore has no significant impact on the 2022 financial year.
We continued the largest restructuring in our company’s history in the past financial year and the programme is already showing evidence of initial successes. However, strict cost discipline and further optimisations remain essential for 2022 in order to stabilise administrative costs despite high investment needs.
In summary, we do not see any significant distortions in our core technical business despite an environment that is very difficult to assess. This means that we expect stable or slightly increasing premiums in 2022 and assume a combined ratio at around the same level as in 2021.
However, we are currently unable to provide a solid assessment of capital market developments and therefore cannot make a stable forecast regarding our net investment income.
The dividend distribution is based on the company’s profits. UNIQA plans to distribute 50 to 60 per cent of consolidated profit to shareholders in the form of a dividend.