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German insurer Allianz says profits soar 60%
by Staff Writers
Frankfurt (AFP) May 15, 2012

First tropical storm of eastern Pacific season off Mexico
Miami (AFP) May 15, 2012 - The first tropical storm of the Pacific storm season formed Tuesday far out to sea off the Mexican coast, the US-based National Hurricane Center said in a statement.

Tropical Storm Aletta was packing maximum winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour but posed no threat to land as it roiled the ocean of the tropical eastern north Pacific, said the NHC in Miami.

Aletta was moving on a west-northwestward course at nine mph (15 kmh) some 640 miles (1,025 km) south-southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, US forecasters said, with winds expected to strengthen over the next 24 hours.

German insurance giant Allianz on Tuesday said its net profits soared by 60 percent in the first quarter of 2012 and confirmed its full-year targets.

Net profits rose to 1.37 billion euros ($1.76 billion) in the first three months of the year on flat turnover of just over 30 billion euros, the group said, slightly better than analysts had expected.

The sharp increase in profits was based in part on a particularly weak first quarter of 2011, during which natural catastrophes including the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan weighed heavily on results.

"Allianz has put in a very good performance this quarter, following 2011 that was tough for the entire insurance industry," said Oliver Baete, the firm's chief financial officer.

"Despite the ongoing sovereign debt crisis, volatile markets and low interest rates, we continue to expect an operating profit for 2012 of 8.2 billion euros, plus or minus 0.5 billion euros," added Baete.

Allianz shares were up by 0.7 percent at the opening bell on the German stock market, slightly outperforming the wider DAX.

Over 150 saved from stricken Taiwan ship off China
Beijing (AFP) May 15, 2012 - More than 150 people were rescued from a stricken Taiwanese passenger ship near China's coast on Tuesday, officials said, after the vessel started taking in water.

The "Golden Dragon" boat -- with 153 people on board, including five crew members -- was on its way from Taiwan's Matsu island to China's southeastern province of Fujian when it ran into difficulties.

The island's county government said in a statement that the leak likely happened when the ship hit a large chunk of wood under water.

A spokesman for Fujian's maritime affairs bureau, surnamed Wang, told AFP that the passengers and crew were rescued late on Tuesday morning and had been safely taken to land.

"Currently, the body of the ship is ok, but it needs to be towed to a ship factory for repairs."

The accident comes just over four months after the Costa Concordia cruise liner ran aground off northwest Italy with some 3,200 passengers aboard, killing 32 people.


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Lebanese army deploys in Tripoli areas hit by fighting
Tripoli, Lebanon (AFP) May 15, 2012
The Lebanese army deployed Tuesday in sectors of Tripoli affected by clashes, calming the area after three days of sectarian fighting that killed nine people, an AFP correspondent said. Troops entered Syria Street, the frontline of fighting between the majority Sunni Muslim district of Bab el-Tebbaneh, and Jabal Mohsen, whose residents are mostly Alawite, at around 6:00 am (0300 GMT). Ba ... read more

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