APRIL posted 2014 consolidated sales of €766.3m, down 1.6% from 2013 based on reported data and down slightly (0.8%) like for like. Health & Personal Protection was down 0.9% based on reported data and down 1.0% like for like. The Property & Casualty division, mainly hit by foreign currency fluctuations, was down 3.6% based on reported data and down 1.4% like for like.
As a result of the significant investment required to prepare for the future and non-recurring expenses arising from the consolidation and streamlining of our businesses, current EBIT fell 12.1% to €76.1m compared to 2013, as announced in our January press releases.
APRIL maintained a strong current EBIT margin of 9.9%, with Health & Personal Protection holding up particularly well and a slight decline in Property & Casualty, mainly due to non-recurring items.
Group non-current expenses for the year came to €6.8m and included in particular the cost of rescinding a business as general agent in La Reunion (€4.8m) and the net costs of closing our operations in Argentina, Chile, Hungary and Belarus. As a result of these events, the Group posted an EBIT of €69.3m, down 18.4% from 2013.
After a €30.5m corporate income tax charge, consolidated net income (Group share) amounted to€36.6m.
Health & Personal Protection
The Health & Personal Protection division reported a 0.9% decline in sales resulting from a 2.6% fall in brokerage commissions, partially offset by a 2.0% rise in premiums.
The decrease in brokerage commissions is due to the Company's decision to stop capturing loss-making individual employee health insurance policies under the National Interbranch Agreement (ANI). This decline was mitigated by the strong performance of the health insurance business in the senior and self-employed market segments and the growth in mortgage and group insurance, supported by solid fundamentals and Group investment. The increase in insurance premiums was driven by the expansion of the individual, group and expatriate health and personal protection portfolios.
Despite the initial impact of ANI, estimated at €3.7m, and the cost of around €3.8m for setting up the new IT systems, the division posted a stable current EBIT margin of 17.7%, due in part to improvements in the risk-carrying business and the Group's operations in Switzerland and the UK.
Property & Casualty
In Property & Casualty, the 2.1% increase in premiums was driven by new partnerships as well as the revival of affinity member operations within the framework of a significantly reinsured model in line with Group policy.
The 3.5% like-for-like fall in commissions was due to the decline in revenues from the distribution network and the travel insurance and assistance business, affected by challenging economic conditions particularly in South America and Europe. This decline was partly offset by wholesale brokerage operations which delivered strong sales but were affected by increasing IT costs.
Moreover, non-recurring expenses, including the costs of restructuring and consolidating the business models of some of the foreign subsidiaries and cost related to the streamlining of our French operations, have pushed current EBIT into a loss.
Non-current expenses, almost exclusively borne by the Property & Casualty division, led it to record an EBIT loss of €9.9m. These expenses include the impact of the withdrawal of some countries as part of the streamlining of our mobility and assistance solutions (for example, Argentina and Chile are now being managed by our US operations).
APRIL's balance sheet at 31 December 2014 reflects the Group's strong business model and prudent financial management: consolidated shareholders' equity (Group share) stood at €578.9m, up €28.6m, while financial debt remained immaterial at €3.7m and net cash,adjusted for deposit accounts held in relation to the Company's cash management policy, increased by €8.1m to €198.6m.
In accordance with our declared policy of guaranteeing a 25% dividend payout ratio supplemented by the remaining cash surplus after coverage of capital expenditure and the previous year’s dividend, a dividend of €0.42 per share for 2014, corresponding to a total dividend payout of €17.2m, will be proposed at the Annual General Meeting.
This is equivalent to a dividend yield of 3.7% over the average share price since 1 January, exceeding analysts’ expectations.
The Group starts 2015 with a strong financial position.
APRIL will pursue its strategy of being a multi-specialist operating in France and abroad by focusing on four main goals:
- To transform new regulatory requirements into opportunities, the full potential of which will not materialise before 2016,
- To develop and accelerate its multi-channel distribution strategy
- To improve profitability and boost growth of international operations
- To increase its operational efficiency
In order to achieve these goals, APRIL will capitalise on its core strengths: its capacity for segmentation, reputed quality of service and customer-centric approach, driven by a strengthened management team.
Within an overall environment that will remain demanding, 2015 will be a year of continued investment for the Group, enabling it to consolidate its business model and market positioning and ultimately return to growth.
At this early stage in the year, Group management expects current EBIT to stay relatively flat in 2015.