VIENNA, July 16 (Reuters) - Vienna Insurance Group (VIG) is on the lookout for acquisitions in eastern Europe, its main profit driver, and could make a record profit this year if there are no major natural catastrophes, its chief executive told a newspaper.
“Our strategy in Poland is to take on a very active role in the consolidation of the market,” Peter Hagen said in an interview published in Austria’s Wirtschaftsblatt on Monday, adding that VIG was interested in small and mid-sized companies.
Hagen, who took over as CEO on June 1, also said VIG would like to use acquisitions to strengthen its position in Hungary, where it lacked the critical mass it had in other countries.
Recent storms in the region, especially in Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic, will cost VIG about 60 million euros ($74 million) in claims for the first half of 2012, Hagen said. Much extreme weather has also occurred in July.
Hagen also said VIG would step up its investments in government bonds in eastern Europe, where the group makes more than half of its sales. “The states where we are active are not bad,” he said.
Exposure to peripheral euro-zone countries represented less than 0.15 percent of VIG’s total investments, Hagen added.
Hagen also said he was not wedded to VIG’s 8 percent stake in Austria’s second-biggest construction group PORR, and had no desire to take part in a capital increase. He said VIG could also shed its stake in tourism firm Verkehrsbuero. ($1 = 0.8167 euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by David Holmes)