“We are very well capitalized, we continue to run with even excess capital,” Cole, who started as CFO in May, said in a phone interview from Zurich today. “If we cannot find a good way to invest in ways that we feel comfortable with then we will look for” ways to return capital to shareholders in either the form of a higher-than-normal dividend, a special dividend, or a share buyback.
The world’s second-biggest reinsurer paid a special dividend in 2014 for the second consecutive year after increasing its normal payment. Special payouts are exempt from Swiss withholding tax and distributed out of “legal reserves from capital contributions,” according to Swiss Re’s annual report.
“We’ve been funding our capital actions out of this special reserve and there are still about 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.6 billion) left in that reserve,” said Cole. He declined to specify how much excess capital Swiss Re holds.
Swiss Re today said third-quarter profit rose 14 percent, beating analysts’ estimates, following lower-than-expected losses from natural catastrophes. The company is expected to pay a dividend of 4.20 Swiss francs a share for this year according to a Bloomberg Dividend Forecast.
Swiss Re also still exceeds the required capital of between $3 billion and $5 billion for a Standard & Poors AA+ credit rating, Cole said. The company will announce in February if it will pay another special dividend.