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Allianz First-Quarter Profit Rises 78%

Insurer Allianz confirmed Tuesday that its first-quarter profit rose 78% on sales of stakes in BMW and retailer KarstadtQuelle, which helped offset claims from a storm that walloped parts of Europe in January.

The Munich-based insurer, Europe's biggest in terms of gross premiums, said its first-quarter profit rose to 3.24 billion euros ($4.41 billion), from 1.8 billion euros a year earlier, beating the 2.39 billion euros ($3.25 billion) analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had predicted.

The results, which confirmed the preliminary results released last week, were also helped by gains in investments, but were weighed down by lower results from its banking operations and its Dresdner Bank unit.

Allianz said it earned 625 million euros ($850.94 million) from its banking operations in the quarter, compared with 666 million euros a year earlier, ahead of the 476 million euros analysts had expected.

Dresdner Bank posted a profit of 612 million euros ($833.24 million) in the quarter, compared with 658 million euros a year earlier.

Chief Executive Michael Diekmann reconfirmed Allianz's earnings goals through 2009 with the aim of reaching an operating profit of more than 13 billion euros ($17.7 billion) in 2009.

Revenue, however, dipped 1% to 29.3 billion euros ($39.89 billion), less than the 29.45 billion euros analysts had predicted, bruised in part by the rising strength of the euro against the dollar.

Sales were also hampered by lower revenue in the company's life and health insurance operations, mostly in Italy and the United States, but that was partially offset by improved figures in banking, asset management and non-life insurance segments.

Allianz's U.S. units include Bill Gross' Pimco, one of the world's largest bond managers; Fireman's Fund; Oppenheimer Capital; and fund managers Nicholas-Applegate and RCM Capital.

Diekmann said the company was set to reverse the slide in life and health insurance, but warned that the trend would continue through the second half of 2007.

The company's operating profit gained 7% to 2.9 billion euros ($3.95 billion), beating estimates of 2.66 billion euros ($3.62 billion). That figure included the 340 million euros ($462.91 million) in claims that were the result of the storm, dubbed Kyrill, that savaged Germany, Switzerland and other parts of Europe.

Shares of Allianz were down nearly half a percent to close at 163.82 euros ($223.04) on Monday.

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