(FREE) Already a major player in Central and Eastern Europe
(CEE), Vienna Insurance Group (VIG) consolidated its position
further in the region by shifting into overall top position in
Slovakia’s general and life insurance sectors in the first quarter
of 2009, from second position in 2008.

This advance came on the back of gross written
premium income of €186.23 million ($260 million) which gave the
Austrian insurer an overall market share of 33.3 percent.

“Assumption of market leadership in Slovakia,
one of our core markets, represents the achievement of a further
milestone in the realisation of our group strategy in CEE,” said
VIG CEO Günter Geyer.

General insurance was the biggest contributor
to VIG’s Slovakian premium income, increasing by 8.7 percent
compared with the first quarter of 2008 to €114.3 million. However,
strongest first quarter growth was registered in the life sector
where VIG recorded a 28.2 percent increase in premium income to
€71.93 million.

VIG has three life insurance units in
Slovakia: Poist’ovna Slovenskej and the soon to be merged Komunálna
poist’ovna and Kontinuita poist’ovna. A fourth unit Kooperativa
poist’ovna is active in general and life insurance.

In attaining top position in Slovakia’s life
market, VIG made special note of the key role played by a 15-year
preferred mutual distribution partnership entered into with
Austrian bank Erste Bank in 2008.

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The agreement formed part of VIG’s acquisition
of Erste Bank’s life and general insurance units in Austria and the
CEE countries Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and
Romania (see LII 222).

Based on 2007 figures, the €1.4 billion cash
deal added some €325 million in annual life premium income and €160
million in general insurance income in CEE. VIG’s acquisition of
the Erste Bank units was finalised on 16 September 2008.

Other life and general insurance operations in
Bulgaria, Poland, Serbia and Ukraine give VIG complete coverage of
CEE, which plays a key and increasing role in the insurer’s

Indicatively, in the first quarter of 2009,
VIG generated total premium income of €1.06 billion in CEE, up 3.7
percent compared with the first quarter of 2008 and equal to 45.1
percent of VIG’s total premium income (€2.35 billion), compared
with 44.1 percent in the first quarter of 2008 and 25.4 percent as
recently as 2004.

The main growth driver was life premium income
generated in CEE which surged by 24 percent in the first quarter of
2009 to €321.1 million or 36.1 percent of VIG’s total life premium
income (€889.3 million), compared with 30.6 percent in the first
quarter of 2008 and 18.5 percent in 2004.

Of VIG’s general insurance premium income of
€1.37 billion in the first quarter of 2009, CEE contributed €737.72
million or 53.7 percent, down slightly from 55.1 percent in the
first quarter of 2008.

In the CEE life sector, the Czech Republic was
VIG’s biggest contributor in the first quarter of 2009, generating
premium income of €131 million. Slovakia was the second largest
contributor, followed by Poland at €58.9 million.