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Aegon Concludes 2017 With Solid Fourth Quarter Results

Net income more than doubles driven by US tax reform

  • Underlying earnings decrease by 5% to EUR 525 million as a result of a weakening of the US dollar; expense savings and higher fee revenue from favorable equity markets were offset by one-time items
  • Gain from fair value items of EUR 85 million driven by positive real estate revaluations and hedging gains
  • Other charges of EUR 132 million, as net book gain on divestments is more than offset by a charge from model updates and a provision related to a regulatory settlement expected later this year
  • Net income more than doubles to EUR 986 million, as US tax reform leads to one-time tax benefit
  • Return on equity for the quarter amounts to 8.4%

Strong growth in gross deposits; continued momentum in asset management and UK platform business

  • Gross deposits increase by 54% to EUR 35 billion; net outflows of EUR 13 billion driven by contract discontinuances in the retirement business acquired from Mercer
  • Lower new life sales of EUR 225 million, mostly as a result of a weakening of the US dollar
  • Accident & health and general insurance sales down to EUR 175 million due to lower supplemental health production
  • Market consistent value of new business increases by 10% to EUR 130 million, partly due to increased scale in UK

Strong increase in Solvency II ratio to 201%

  • Solvency II ratio increases by 6%-points during the quarter to 201%. Solid business performance, management actions and divestments more than offset adverse impact from US tax reform and market movements
  • Capital generation excluding market impacts and one-time items of EUR 381 million
  • Remittances from units totaling EUR 0.9 billion drive increase in holding excess capital to EUR 1.4 billion
  • Gross financial leverage ratio improves by 60 basis points in the quarter to 28.6% as a result of strong net income
  • Final 2017 dividend per share of EUR 0.14; on track to deliver on EUR 2.1 billion capital return commitment

Significant increase in future recurring earnings and capital generation from US tax reform

  • Shareholders’ equity increased by EUR 1.0 billion in the fourth quarter resulting from US tax reform, due to a reduction in net deferred tax liabilities, of which EUR 554 million was recognized in the profit and loss account
  • Expected recurring annual benefit of EUR ~85 million to capital generation and EUR ~120 million to net underlying earnings. Earnings uplift to lead to over 50 basis points increase in group return on equity
  • RBC ratio of US business could be impacted by increase in required capital, contingent on regulatory action to change RBC factors. RBC ratio expected to remain above mid-point of 350-450% target range
  • Remittances from Aegon’s US operations are expected to remain unchanged in short term, with medium-term upside

Statement of Alex Wynaendts, CEO

“Aegon’s solid fourth quarter results conclude a year in which we have grown our business, accomplished many of our strategic objectives, and strongly increased our financial results. The actions we have taken led to a significant increase in our solvency ratio, quality of capital and recurring capital generation. I’m therefore pleased to announce an increase in our final dividend of 14 cents per share, the sixth consecutive year of growing dividend to shareholders.

“We are becoming a more agile and technology-driven organization, and are now better able to respond to the changing needs of our customers than ever before. The efficient use of new technologies, in combination with outsourcing, also puts us well on track to achieve our targeted expense savings.

“2017 saw us pay out over EUR 48 billion in claims and benefits, which demonstrates the importance of what we do for our customers. Going forward, we will continue to transform our business in order to help people around the world achieve a lifetime of financial security. By doing so, I am very confident that we will be able to further grow our business, make progress on our ambitious 2018 targets, and generate long-term value for all our stakeholders.”

Note: All comparisons in this release are against the fourth quarter of 2016, unless stated otherwise. See page 5 of the press release for key performance indicators.

Strategic highlights

  • Aegon announces significant step to capture greater operational efficiencies in the US
  • Aegon divests additional block of US run-off businesses to SCOR
  • Creation of European asset management organization to lead to efficiencies and operational agility
  • Global employee engagement survey results show commitment to become industry’s preferred employer

Aegon’s strategy

Aegon’s purpose – to help people achieve a lifetime of financial security – forms the basis of the company’s strategy. The central focus of the strategy is to further transform Aegon from a product-based to a customer needs-driven company. This means serving diverse and evolving needs across the customer life cycle; being a trusted partner for financial solutions that are relevant, simple, rewarding, and convenient; and developing long-term customer relationships by providing guidance and advice, and identifying additional financial security needs at every stage of customers’ lives.

Aegon is focused on reducing complexity, eliminating duplication, improving accuracy, and increasing automation in order to realize cost efficiencies, allowing investments in its transformation to a digitally enabled, customer-centric company. Furthermore, the company is focused on driving scale and establishing strong positions in its current markets, and adhering to strict standards to ensure the efficient use of capital by all of its businesses. There are four key strategic objectives – Optimized portfolio, Operational excellence, Customer loyalty, and Empowered employees – embedded in all Aegon businesses that enable the company to execute its strategy.

Optimized portfolio

On December 28, 2017, Aegon announced the divestment of a block of life reinsurance business to SCOR and to dissolve a related captive insurance company. Under the terms of the agreement, Aegon’s Transamerica life subsidiaries will reinsure approximately USD 750 million of liabilities to SCOR. The transaction covers approximately half of the life reinsurance business that Transamerica retained after having divested the vast majority of its life reinsurance business to SCOR in 2011. The transaction had a one-time benefit of USD 79 million on Transamerica’s capital position and will have a slight positive effect on recurring capital generation. The divestment resulted in a pre-tax IFRS loss of USD 119 million reported in Other charges. Transamerica dissolved a related captive insurance company in place to finance redundant reserves, and redeemed USD 475 million of operational leverage supporting that captive.

Aegon announced that its US subsidiary, Transamerica, entered into an agreement on January 11, 2018, with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to administer the company’s US insurance and annuity business lines. The partnership will enable Transamerica to accelerate the enhancement of its digital capabilities and the modernization of its platforms to serve its customers in all lines of business. TCS will administer over 10 million of Transamerica’s life insurance, annuity, supplemental health insurance and workplace voluntary benefits policies. The agreement, which is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2018, will initially lead to annual run-rate expense savings for Aegon of approximately USD 70 million, growing to USD 100 million over time. The majority of the expense savings are expected to benefit underlying earnings.

Operational excellence

On January 1, 2018, Aegon Asset Management began operating under two regions: the US and Europe, in which the asset management activities in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have been consolidated under a single leadership team. This will enable Aegon to achieve greater operational scalability, ensure best practices are better shared across regions, and reduce costs by removing duplication across the European region. This will lead to more efficiencies and further optimize operational agility.

On January 2, 2018, Aegon Asset Management announced the launch of the first of its kind affordable housing debt fund in the United States. The US affordable housing debt fund of USD 100 million was fully subscribed, and is expected to finance 32 loans across 13 states. The debt fund provides debt capital to affordable housing developments that receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). The LIHTC program is one of the most successful federal housing programs in the US with over 2.8 million homes developed since inception. Aegon will provide ongoing fund oversight, loan servicing and asset management services for the life of the debt fund. Aegon currently manages more than USD 4 billion of tax credit equity investments and over USD 11 billion of commercial mortgage loans for its clients.

Customer loyalty

In the United States, Aegon announced a new Wealth + Health brand identity focused on helping customers improve their overall well-being by effectively managing both their wealth and their health. The company’s objective is to offer simple, sound, and holistic guidance that will help people improve the overall quality of their lives. Aegon has developed numerous resources to help customers and financial professionals understand how wealth and health are connected. On Transamerica’s redesigned website, people can access research, education and guidance to learn more about how wealth and health come together. These materials underscore that financial security and physical health are not only inherently interconnected, but they are two of the most important components toward living a long, meaningful life.

The Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement (ACLR) conducted its first international survey on retirement aspirations and planning among the LGBT community. The survey concluded that LGBT people are more likely to lead solo lifestyles throughout adulthood, and this is reflected in their views as to how they will spend their retirement. Furthermore, some LGBT workers still face open and subtle discrimination that denies them the same opportunities in the workplace as their heterosexual colleagues. Aegon discussed the key findings from the report at the High-Level Conference on Policies for Equal Ageing: A Life-Course Approach jointly organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Government of Slovenia on January 25, 2018.

Empowered employees

Results from Aegon’s seventh annual global employee survey showed improvement in overall engagement, which increased by 2 points to 65 out of a maximum 100 points in 2017. The survey was completed by over 80% of all Aegon employees worldwide. This improvement in engagement demonstrates Aegon’s ongoing work to become the most preferred employer in the sector, which is enabling Aegon to attract and develop the talent required to best serve the needs of its customers. Progress has also been made in terms of implementing Aegon’s FutureFit strategy. The results for Customer Centricity have, for instance, increased to 74 points, demonstrating how Aegon is successfully focusing on putting customers at the heart of all that they do.

In 2017, Aegon’s employees in the United States contributed to their local United Way chapters as part of the annual campaign to raise money for this charity. This year, Aegon’s employees raised more than USD 1.5 million in total, and these funds are being used to provide people in need throughout the United States with effective health care, educational support and financial stability resources. Additionally, Aegon’s employees raised USD 200,000 to help those affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The donations are on top of the many volunteer hours donated by Aegon employees across the globe to help those in need.

Operational highlights

Underlying earnings before tax

Aegon’s underlying earnings before tax decreased by 5% compared with the fourth quarter of 2016 to EUR 525 million driven by weakening of the US dollar. Earnings were stable on a constant currency basis, as expense savings and higher fee revenue from favorable equity markets were offset by unfavorable adjustments to deferred acquisition costs and one-time expenses. Earnings from fee-based businesses increased by 6%-points compared with last year to 45% in the fourth quarter of 2017 supported by strong equity markets and the acquisition of Cofunds. This quarter’s favorable claims experience in the United States was offset by unfavorable adjustments to deferred acquisition costs and one-time expenses in other business units.

Underlying earnings from the Americas decreased by 9% to EUR 352 million, mostly as a result of weakening of the US dollar. On a constant currency basis, as expense savings, the higher contribution from fee-based businesses resulting from favorable equity markets, and a further improvement in claims experience were more than offset by one-time items. The current quarter included a EUR 5 million unfavorable adjustment to deferred acquisition costs, while the same quarter last year included a positive impact of EUR 17 million. Favorable claims experience this quarter of EUR 22 million was driven by lower supplemental health claims.

Underlying earnings from Aegon’s operations in Europe decreased by 4% to EUR 167 million, driven by EUR 8 million one-time expenses in Spain & Portugal. Increased fee revenue in the United Kingdom and higher interest income in the Netherlands were mainly offset by a normalization of the Dutch non-life result.

Aegon’s underlying earnings in Asia amounted to EUR 12 million. Lower earnings from the High-Net-Worth businesses as a result of the non-recurrence of favorable intangible adjustments offset higher earnings in all other business lines.

Underlying earnings from Aegon Asset Management increased by 5% to EUR 37 million, as higher performance and origination fees were partly offset by lower management fees and EUR 6 million one-time expenses.

The result from the holding improved to a loss of EUR 42 million, as last year’s one-time charges and project-related expenses did not reoccur.

US tax reform

On December 22, 2017, the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law. The key item of this change to tax law is the lowering of the nominal corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, which led to a reduction in net deferred tax liabilities in the fourth quarter of 2017. As a result, shareholders’ equity increased by EUR 1.0 billion, of which EUR 554 million was recognized in the income tax line in the profit and loss account, and the remainder directly in shareholders’ equity as it relates to revaluation reserves. The portion recognized directly in shareholders’ equity does not impact the group’s return on equity nor the gross financial leverage ratio.

Net underlying earnings will benefit from the lower corporate tax rate as of 2018. Aegon expects the effective corporate tax rate for its business in the United States to reduce to approximately 16% to 18%. Based on the full-year 2017 results, this would lead to an increase in net underlying earnings of approximately USD 140 million (EUR ~120 million). This will have a positive impact on the return on capital invested in Aegon’s US business of approximately 75 basis points, and will lead to an improvement in the group’s return on equity of approximately 55 basis points.

The one-time negative impact from tax reform on the RBC ratio in the fourth quarter of 2017 was 16%-points, mainly due to the reduction of deferred tax assets that are part of available capital. This adjustment is reflected in the estimated RBC ratio of 472% per year-end 2017.

Contingent on the decision by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to reflect the new tax rate in its RBC requirements, an additional one-time increase to required capital is expected in the future. Aegon expects that the RBC ratio of its US business will remain above the mid-point of its 350 to 450% target range. As a result, the company foresees no changes to the remittances from its US operations. The group’s Solvency II ratio is expected to remain well within the upper half of the 150 to 200% target range despite the potential increase in required capital.

Going forward, based on current projections, Aegon expects a benefit to capital generation of approximately USD 100 million (EUR ~85 million) on average per year as a result of a lower effective tax rate. Increased capital generation leads to potential upside in medium-term remittances from Aegon’s US operations.

All ongoing impacts will fluctuate depending on market conditions and other elements affecting taxable income and the company’s tax position. In terms of the impact on required capital, Aegon has made assumptions with regard to the use of a single corporate tax rate of 21% for Aegon’s US business, and application of concepts currently exposed by the NAIC regarding capital requirements. Outcomes are dependent on changes to NAIC requirements, which may deviate from Aegon’s current assumptions.

Net income

Net income more than doubled compared with the fourth quarter of 2016 to EUR 986 million, as US tax reform led to a one-time benefit of EUR 554 million in income taxes, driven by the related reduction in net deferred tax liabilities.

Fair value items

The gain from fair value items amounted to EUR 85 million. Positive revaluations on investments and hedging gains in the Netherlands and the United States more than offset the negative result on the guarantee provision in the Netherlands.

Realized gains on investments

Realized gains totaled EUR 91 million, and were mainly related to normal trading activity in the United States and the sale of bonds in the United Kingdom to fund remittances to the group.

Impairment charges

Impairments amounted to EUR 35 million and mainly related to a single commercial mortgage loan in the United States and a loan loss provision related to growing consumer loan origination in the Netherlands. In 2017, impairments amounted to 3 basis points of general account investments, which is well below the company’s long-term average experience.

Other charges

Other charges amounted to EUR 132 million, as a gain on the sale of UMG in the Netherlands was more than offset by integration expenses in the United Kingdom and charges in the United States and Asset Management.

The sale of UMG in the Netherlands closed on November 1, 2017, and resulted in a gain of EUR 208 million. Expenses related to the program to integrate Cofunds and BlackRock’s defined contribution business in Aegon’s platform business in the United Kingdom amounted to EUR 25 million this quarter.

Aegon has taken a provision in anticipation of a possible settlement in connection with a previously disclosed investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The investigation relates to the operation or existence of errors in the quantitative models in question and disclosures regarding these matters. Aegon had discovered these errors in its asset management operations in the United States. The company notified the SEC and cooperated fully with the investigation. Following the discovery of the errors, Aegon concluded a comprehensive and detailed review.

As a result of recent discussions, Aegon has taken a EUR 85 million provision through Other charges in the fourth quarter of 2017 for a potential settlement. This amount is partly recorded in the Americas (EUR 45 million) and partly in Asset Management (EUR 40 million). Aegon believes that the investigation will come to a conclusion in 2018.

Charges in the United States of EUR 266 million were mainly caused by a loss of EUR 105 million from the divestment of an additional block of life reinsurance business, the aforementioned settlement provision, and EUR 100 million from model updates. The latter was mostly driven by a true-up related to the conversion of the largest block of universal life business to a new model, while the remainder related to a model update in Fixed Annuities.

Run-off businesses

The run-off businesses declined to a loss of EUR 8 million as a result of the divestment of the majority of the remainder of these businesses in 2017.

Income tax

Income tax amounted to a benefit of EUR 460 million as a result of the EUR 554 million one-time impact from US tax reform driven by a reduction in net deferred tax liabilities. Excluding this benefit and the tax exempt gain on the sale of UMG, the effective tax rate for the fourth quarter amounted to 26%. The effective tax rate on underlying earnings was 25%, as the benefit from US tax reform will only be reflected in net underlying earnings as of 2018.

Return on equity

Return on equity decreased by 210 basis points compared with the same quarter last year to 8.4%. The decline reflects the fact that the fourth quarter of 2016 included a non-recurring tax benefit recorded through net underlying earnings. The return on equity in the fourth quarter of 2017 did not include the benefit from US tax reform recognized in the profit and loss account.

Operating expenses

Operating expenses increased by 1% to EUR 984 million, as the acquisition of Cofunds in the United Kingdom and an increase in integration and restructuring expenses were only partly offset by the weakening of the US dollar and the divestment of UMG. Excluding these items, operating expenses were stable, as expense savings were partly offset by investments in business transformation and one-time expenses. Aegon is well on track to implement EUR 350 million of run-rate expense savings by year-end 2018 as part of its plans to improve the return on equity. Initiatives to reduce expenses have led to annual run-rate expense savings of approximately EUR 280 million since the beginning of 2016, including the recently announced agreement with TCS.

Sales

Aegon’s total sales in the fourth quarter of 2017 were up by 43% to EUR 3.9 billion. This strong increase was the result of a 54% increase in gross deposits to EUR 34.9 billion, primarily driven by strong deposits across all regions in Asset Management, and institutional platform sales in the United Kingdom. Net outflows amounted to EUR 12.8 billion, as continued asset management inflows and increased inflows on the platform in the United Kingdom were more than offset by net outflows in the Americas as a result of contract discontinuances in the retirement business acquired from Mercer. These outflows were in line with the guidance provided last quarter, and are driven by conversion of customers to the Transamerica recordkeeping platform. Now that these conversions have been completed, net deposits are expected to improve substantially and increase as a result of the momentum that Transamerica continues to build in the market.

New life sales amounted to EUR 225 million, a decline of 6%. This was mainly caused by the weakening of the US dollar, lower term life and indexed universal life sales in the United States, and was partly offset by strong growth in the Asian High-Net-Worth business and the successful launch of a new critical illness product in China.

New premium production for accident & health and general insurance decreased by 22% to EUR 175 million, or 19% on a constant currency basis. Product exits and lower supplemental health sales in the United States more than offset increased general insurance production supported by a portfolio acquisition in Hungary.

Market consistent value of new business

The market consistent value of new business (MCVNB) increased by 10% to EUR 130 million. The effect of weakening of the US dollar was more than offset by the benefit from strong sales and higher interest rates in Asia, as well as an improvement in MCVNB in the United Kingdom, which primarily reflects economies of scale on Aegon’s growing platform business.

Revenue-generating investments

Revenue-generating investments remained stable compared with the end of last quarter at EUR 817 billion. The favorable impact from higher equity markets was offset by net outflows and weakening of the US dollar.

Capital management

Shareholders’ equity increased by EUR 0.5 billion to EUR 20.6 billion on December 31, 2017, as retained earnings and the benefit resulting from US tax reform more than offset weakening of the US dollar and a lower revaluation reserve as a result of increased interest rates. Shareholders’ equity excluding revaluation reserves and defined benefit plan remeasurements increased by EUR 0.5 billion to EUR 17.4 billion – or EUR 8.47 per common share – at the end of the fourth quarter. This increase reflects retained earnings, including the tax benefit resulting from tax reform reported in the profit and loss account, which were partly offset by weakening of the US dollar and other items. The gross leverage ratio improved by 60 basis points to 28.6% as a result of the increase in equity.

Holding excess capital increased from EUR 0.9 billion to EUR 1.4 billion. The group received EUR 0.9 billion in remittances from subsidiaries this quarter: EUR 625 million from the United States, EUR 167 million from the United Kingdom, EUR 27 million from Asset Management, EUR 19 million from Hungary, and EUR 18 million from Spain. These remittances were partly offset by EUR 20 million capital injections to support growth of the business and EUR 361 million cash outflows mainly related to the share buyback to neutralize the final 2016 and interim 2017 stock dividends, in addition to holding funding and operating expenses.

On December 20, 2017, Moody’s affirmed its ‘A3’ long-term issuer rating on Aegon N.V., while revising their outlook from ‘negative’ to ‘stable’.

Capital generation

Capital generation of the operating units amounted to EUR 106 million for the quarter. Market impacts and one-time items totaled a negative EUR 275 million. Market impacts were mainly driven by the unfavorable impact from equity market movements in the United Kingdom and adverse interest rate movements in the United Kingdom, the United States and Asia. One-time items included tax benefits in the United States and benefits from separate account derisking in the Netherlands, which were more than offset by the reduction of deferred tax assets in the United States, and model updates and assumption changes. The latter mostly related to an increase in required capital in the United Kingdom as a result of a change in tax legislation reducing tax losses carried forward.

Solvency II ratio

Aegon’s Solvency II ratio increased from 195% to 201% during the fourth quarter resulting from capital generation including market impacts and one-time items, and divestments.

The estimated local solvency ratios of Aegon’s main units as of December 31, 2017, were:

  • 472% RBC ratio in the United States
  • 199% Solvency II ratio in the Netherlands
  • 176% Solvency II ratio in the United Kingdom

Final dividend

At the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders on May 18, 2018, the Supervisory Board will, in the absence of unforeseen circumstances, propose a final dividend for 2017 of EUR 0.14 per common share. If approved, and in combination with the interim dividend of EUR 0.13 per share paid over the first half of 2017, Aegon’s total dividend over 2017 will amount to EUR 0.27 per common share. This is an increase of 4% compared with the 2016 dividend. The final dividend will be paid in cash or stock at the election of the shareholder. The value of the stock dividend will be approximately equal to the cash dividend.

If the proposed dividend is approved by shareholders, Aegon shares will be quoted ex-dividend on May 22, 2018. The record date for the dividend will be May 23, 2018. The election period for shareholders will run from May 29 up to and including June 15, 2018. The stock fraction will be based on the average share price on Euronext Amsterdam from June 11 until June 15, 2018. The stock dividend ratio will be announced on June 20, 2018, and the dividend will be payable as of June 22, 2018.

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