Axa Asia Posts $372.9 Million Loss on Investments (Update2)

By Malcolm Scott
Bloomberg News
February 17, 2009

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Axa Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd., a unit of France's biggest insurer, turned to a loss in the second half as investments slumped amid the global credit crisis.

The Melbourne-based company posted a loss of A$372.9 million ($242 million) in the six months ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of A$265 million a year earlier. Investment losses totaled A$398 million in the half as stocks tumbled and credit spreads widened, the company said.

"We are living in extraordinary times with the severe dislocation and losses in investment markets over the last 12 months," Chief Executive Officer Andrew Penn said. "It seems unlikely that the environment will improve in the short term such that 2009 will also be challenging for our industry."

Global equities tumbled in 2008, sparking a full-year investment loss of A$537.7 million for Axa. At the same time, Penn is battling stalling growth at home as the economy slows, and a decline in New Zealand, which has already entered a recession.

Axa's shares, down 29 percent in the past 12 months, lost 6.6 percent to A$3.83 at the 4 p.m. close of trading in Sydney.

Axa's full-year loss was A$278.7 million, while operating earnings, which excludes investments, rose 2 percent to A$556 million in the year to Dec. 31. The company will pay a dividend of 9.25 Australian cents for the second half, it reported today.

Funds under management and advice declined 23 percent to A$83.9 billion, the company said.

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