FRANKFURT. German insurer Allianz on Friday reported a 10-year high in annual net profits thanks to fewer claims for natural disasters in 2018, and said it expected a similarly strong performance this year.

Net profit attributable to shareholders jumped 9.7 per cent year-on-year to 7.5 billion euros ($8.5 billion), the Munich-based group said, slightly less than analysts had predicted.

Operating, or underlying, profits reached 11.5 billion euros, coming in at the upper end of the group’s 2018 target, while revenues grew 3.5 per cent to 131 billion.

“We reached the highest net income of the past 10 years despite strong market volatility, especially in the fourth quarter,” chief executive Oliver Baete said in a statement.

In the last quarter of 2018 alone, the group booked a net profit of 1.7 billion euros, up 19 per cent year-on-year, which Allianz said was driven by fewer claims and lower income taxes.

Like fellow German insurance giant Munich Re, Allianz last year had to deal with fewer costly catastrophes than in disaster-hit 2017, when a string of hurricanes in the US, Californian forest fires and European storms dented earnings.

A resulting “strong rise” in full-year operating profits at the crucial property and casualty division helped offset a decline in operating profits at the life and health insurance unit.

The group’s third-party asset management arm also performed well despite “a challenging environment”, Allianz said.

Looking ahead, the insurer expects “a strong financial performance again this year”, targeting operating profits of 11.5 billion euros, give or take 500 million depending on unforeseen events.

The group said it will offer investors a dividend of 9.00 euros per share for 2018, up from 8.00 euros the previous year.

The group plans to buy back 1.5 billion euros in share this year, starting on March 1.