Direct Line share price: Group posts preliminary results

Company posts 5.4% increase in final dividend per share

Direct Line share price: Group posts preliminary results

Direct Line Group (LON:DLG) has updated investors on its recent performance this morning.

Highlights from the company statement:

In 2016, operating profit from Ongoing operations was £403.5 million (pre-Ogden: £578.6 million; 2015: £520.7 million) primarily due to a lower underwriting result as the Group has reflected an increase in its claims reserves for the recent reduction in the Ogden discount rate, and lower investment returns. The underwriting profit was £70.1 million, (2015: £175.2 million), principally due to the recent reduction in the Ogden discount rate, which led to lower prior-year reserve releases from Ongoing operations of £266.7 million (2015: £378.9 million). This was partially offset by lower claims costs from major weather events. Expenses include higher non-cash impairments than in previous years of £39.3 million and the Flood Re levy of £24.1 million. Investment return was lower primarily due to a reduction in unrealised property gains.

Operating profit from Ongoing operations for the second half of 2016 was £79.9 million (pre-Ogden: £255.0 million; 2015: £184.9 million). The decrease in operating profit was driven by the recent reduction in the Ogden discount rate and a lower investment return, partially offset by lower claims costs from major weather events and an increase in instalment and other operating income.

Outlook

The Group's markets were highly competitive and faced a number of significant government policy and regulatory changes during 2016 and in early 2017. In the face of these challenges, the Group demonstrated both its resilience and its appeal to customers by growing its own brands policies while maintaining overall margins, which has continued into early 2017. The Group does not expect any material residual impact on 2017 profit as a result of adopting the reduction in the Ogden discount rate to minus 0.75%.

The Group aims to reduce its expense ratio during 2017, absorbing its investment in future capability. The Group also aims to deliver a lower commission ratio during 2017, normalised for major weather events; this will in part reflect changes in its distribution channel mix. Over the longer term, the Group aims to achieve further reductions in both the expense and commission ratios.

For 2017, the Group targets achieving a COR in the range of 93% to 95% for Ongoing operations, assuming a normal annual level of claims from major weather events and no further change to the Ogden discount rate. In addition, the Group reiterates its ongoing target of achieving at least a 15% return on tangible equity ("RoTE").

As of 07:09 GMT, Tuesday, 07 March, Direct Line Insurance Group PLC share price is 367.65p.

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