August 6, 2021

By Tom Sims and Alexander Hübner

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Oliver Baete, chief executive officer of Germany’s Allianz, on Friday spoke of a “horrible week” for him and the insurer, his first response to a disclosure that the U.S. Department of Justice was probing losses at its fund division.

Baete, making an unexpected appearance to reporters in a call after the company’s second-quarter earnings, said the insurer would set aside reserves for the case when the time is appropriate.

“It was a horrible week for us and for me personally,” he said.

The DOJ investigation, disclosed by Allianz on Sunday, follows lawsuits by U.S. investors claiming around $6 billion in losses from a family of funds, saying Allianz failed to safeguard their investments during the coronavirus market meltdown.

Last year, Allianz revealed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was also investigating. It had said it was actively cooperating with both bodies and defending itself in the lawsuits.

“This event will leave its mark, but it will not change the Allianz’s path,” Baete said.

Baete said he regretted that some investors lost money. Shares fell sharply on Monday after Sunday’s disclosure.

Allianz disclosed on Friday that the DOJ had also requested information from current and former U.S. employees at the fund management division.

The DOJ has declined to comment on the matter.

Allianz posted a better-than-expected 46% jump in second-quarter net profit and provided a rosier outlook for the full year as it emerges from pressure on business caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Net profit attributable to shareholders of 2.225 billion euros ($2.60 billion) in the three months through June compares with 1.528 billion euros a year earlier. The figure beat a 2.055 billion euro consensus forecast.

More optimistic about the outlook for this year, the company said it now expects operating profit in 2021 to be in the upper half of a range of between 11 billion and 13 billion euros.

“We are confident about the second half of 2021,” said Giulio Terzariol, chief financial officer.

Last year, the insurer abandoned its profit target due to economic uncertainty resulting from the pandemic and posted its first decline in operating profit in nearly a decade.

Allianz, like other insurers, had faced clients making claims for business interruption and cancelled events from lockdowns, while demand for car and travel insurance fell.

In another sign of a return to normal times for the insurance group, Allianz announced on Thursday plans to buy back up to 750 million euros worth of shares by the end of the year, after last year cancelling a buyback halfway through due to the pandemic.

The group has done several major buyback programmes since 2017, spending a total 8.25 billion euros on its own stock.

($1 = 0.8457 euros)

(Reporting by Tom Sims and Alexander HuebnerEditing by Riham Alkousaa, Shri Navaratnam and Anil D’Silva)