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Zurich's Greco says nearly halfway to 2019 goal to cut costs: NZZ

Reuters - Last Update:

ZURICH (Reuters) - Zurich Insurance will have cut costs by $700 million by the end of the year, nearly halfway to its goal to save $1.5 billion by 2019, Chief Executive Mario Greco said in an interview published on Saturday.

'We're on track,' Greco told the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung. 'It's a big challenge, because we must simultaneously cut costs as well as invest.'

Greco, who had engineered a turnaround at Italy's Generali , was brought in last year by Zurich to reduce the company's high cost base and simplify its business to help boost profitability that had been falling short of its own targets.

Asked if a dividend target of 75 percent of net profit was too high, Greco responded by saying the company is satisfied with its AA debt rating and has no ambition to attain AAA, meaning further measures to strengthen capital is not a priority.

'An excessive build-up of capital reserves weakens our discipline and leads to a situation where money is deployed inefficiently,' Greco said. 'Additionally, it puts pressure on the return on equity and doesn't help us any further.'

Greco told the newspaper Zurich does not need additional capital to support organic growth of its property insurance or life insurance businesses, as these already generate significant cashflow.

But the company needs to invest in internal initiatives including new digital technology to become more responsive to its customers' changing needs, he said.

'For small purchases, we have enough capital,' he told the paper, adding the company could turn to shareholders to raise cash should it decide to make a large acquisition.

(Reporting by John Miller; editing by Clelia Oziel)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017. Click For Restrictions - about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

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Europe

European stocks post best week since 2016 as global appetite for risk ramps up

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EDF shares climb; euro slips below $1.25 but rises for the week. European stocks finished Friday's session in rally mode, posting their biggest weekly win in more than a year alongside on ongoing recovery in equities on Wall Street. The Stoxx Europe 600 index leapt 1.1% to close at 380.62, its third straight gain.

US

Watch Ellen DeGeneres explain bitcoin in two minutes

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DeGeneres on bitcoin:' Personally I'd rather own a baby goat'. Ellen DeGeneres is the latest celebrity to weigh in on bitcoinmania, but it doesn't look like she'll be buying in anytime soon. DeGeneres gamely took a stab at explaining bitcoin on a segment of her NBC talk show, which aired Thursday afternoon.

Asia

Nikkei rises as Kuroda renominated to lead Bank of Japan

MarketWatch - Last Update:

Most Asian markets closed for Lunar New Year holiday. Stocks in Japan and New Zealand gained Friday, while a number of major markets were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, as investors regained confidence in equities after sharp slides last week. Taking cues from another robust session on Wall Street overnight, Japan's Nikkei Stock Exchange led gains in Asia, closing up 1.2%, despite a stronger yen.

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