We are thoroughly satisfied with the development of our business as at 30 September 2015. Although market conditions for reinsurers – especially in property and casualty reinsurance – remain challenging owing to marked competition, we generated good results thanks to our positioning. Our investments also fared well, with all business segments therefore playing a part in the pleasing Group net income reported for the first nine months.
Gross written premium for our total business surged appreciably by 20.9% as at 30 September 2015 to EUR 12.9 billion (EUR 10.7 billion); at constant exchange rates, growth would have come in at 10.0%. This figure puts us ahead of our expectations going into the financial year. The level of retained premium rose to 87.9% (87.0%). Net premium earned climbed by 20.8% to EUR 10.8 billion (EUR 9.0 billion); growth would have amounted to 10.0% at constant exchange rates.
In view of the continued low interest rate environment, we are highly satisfied with the development of our investments. Our portfolio of assets under own management is above the level of 31 December 2014 (EUR 36.2 billion) at EUR 37.7 billion. With yields largely unchanged or at most showing slight declines in the medium-term maturity range, the increase was driven primarily by effects associated with the appreciation of various currencies – and in this context especially the US dollar – against the euro. Despite the broadly sustained low interest rate environment, ordinary investment income excluding interest on deposits was sharply up on the comparable period at EUR 912.5 million (EUR 791.8 million). This includes not only increased earnings from fixed-income securities but also sharply higher income from our real estate investments and a special effect in life and health reinsurance. Interest on deposits increased to EUR 292.9 million (EUR 285.3 million).
Net realised gains on disposals were slightly lower than in the corresponding period of the previous year at EUR 124.2 million (EUR 137.4 million). They derived in large measure from disposals due to the planned changeover in the functional currency of our Irish subsidiary to the US dollar and from regrouping activities in connection with the expansion of the asset classes fixed income enhancements and emerging markets and also reflected initial moves to build an equity portfolio as well as regular portfolio maintenance. Fair value changes in our financial assets measured at fair value through profit or loss were negative on balance at EUR 9.2 million; in the comparable period the amount had similarly been negative at EUR 8.8 million. The impairments taken in the period under review were once again only very minimal.
Income from investments under own management showed pleasing growth as at 30 September 2015 to reach EUR 931.8 million (EUR 836.0 million) on the back of stronger ordinary income. The somewhat lower net realised gains and slightly higher impairment charges were thus comfortably offset. The annualised return generated on investments under own management (excluding ModCo derivatives and inflation swaps) stood at 3.5% (3.4%).
The operating profit (EBIT) as at 30 September 2015 for the Group as a whole was highly favourable at EUR 1.2 billion (EUR 1.1 billion), equivalent to growth of 9.1%. Group net income improved clearly by a further 13.0% on the already very good result of the previous year to reach EUR 786.0 million (EUR 695.4 million). Earnings per share amounted to EUR 6.52 (EUR 5.77).
The shareholders’ equity of Hannover Re remained at a robust EUR 7.7 billion as at 3 September 2015 (31 December 2014: EUR 7.6 billion) despite the dividend payment of EUR 512.5 million. The book value per share amounted to EUR 64.15 (31 December 2014: EUR 62.61). The annualised return on equity for the first nine months stood at a good 13.7% (31 December 2014: 14.7%).