Natural catastrophes in Australia, Japan and New Zealand hit Allianz Group’s operating profits in the first quarter, but its booming asset management business blunted the impact.

Its asset management business, which includes the Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO), saw net fee and commission income rose by 14.5%, to 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion), pushing up operating profit to 528 million euros, or 13.3%. Performance fees dropped by 72 million euros, the company said, after hitting an exceptionally high mark in the first quarter of 2010. Third-party assets under management grew to 1.1 trillion euros, by March 31, 2011.

PIMCO generated the biggest news in Allianz Group’s asset management division. The Newport Beach, Calif., bond specialist created the PIMCO Investments broker dealer to distribute its mutual funds, ETFs and other investment products.

The Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America had a net operating profit of $126 million, down about 10.6% from $141 million in the same period a year earlier, according to the company. That division had $89 billion in total assets under management, up about 12% from a year ago, the company said.

As for its property and casualty insurance business, the company poured out 737 million euros in claims expenses in the first quarter, after a flood inundated Queensland, Australia in January, an earthquake ruined Christchurch, New Zealand in February and a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan n March. Still, Allianz group said its operating profit amounted to 663 million euros, which was 6.9% lower than the 712 million euros in the first quarter of 2010.

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