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Aflac earnings rise, gains crimped by weaker yen

Steve Rothwell

Insurance company Aflac Inc. said Tuesday that its earnings rose 9 percent in the fourth quarter as premium income rose in Japan, offsetting the impact of a weaker Japanese yen.

Aflac, which provides disability and supplemental insurance primarily in the U.S. and Japan, said net income rose to $581 million, or $1.24 a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31. That compares with net income of $538 million, or $1.15 a share, in the same period a year earlier.

Revenue climbed 6.6 percent to $6.38 billion.

The company does a significant portion of its business in Japan, so a weaker yen means that value of its revenue translates into fewer dollars. The Japanese yen plunged against the U.S. dollar in the last four months amid speculation that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will push for more aggressive stimulus measures.

Aflac said that total revenues at its Japan unit rose 10.5 percent in the fourth quarter as premium income and net-investment income rose. That gain in revenue was offset by a 4.4 percent decline in the average exchange rate for the yen versus the dollar in the fourth quarter.

Stripping out one-time items from investment gains and losses, the company said operating earnings were $697 million or $1.48 per share. Analysts expected $1.47 a share on revenue of $6.42 billion, according to FactSet.

The company reiterated its outlook for 2013 operating earnings of $6.37 to $6.57 per share. Analysts are looking for $6.59 per share.

Aflac said it will pay a first-quarter dividend of 35 cents per share on March 1 to shareholders of record as of Feb. 15.

Aflac shares fell 79 cents to $52.70 in after-hours trading.