(Bloomberg) -- Axa SA plans to return about €6 billion ($6.5 billion) of last year’s earnings to investors under a new payout policy unveiled by Chief Executive Officer Thomas Buberl.

The French insurer vowed to return 75% of underlying earnings per share over the coming years, including 15% via buybacks. For last year, Axa announced a dividend of €1.98 a share along with a €1.6 billion buyback, in line with the new policy.

Underlying profit of €7.6 billion last year came in just ahead of analysts’ estimates, while net income fell short.

Since taking over in 2016, Buberl has shifted the insurer’s focus from life insurance to property and casualty as well as health insurance, in a bid to make Axa less sensitive to financial markets. He said in an interview this month that he intends to “scale up” the firm’s business insuring corporate risks in the next phase of the firm’s growth.

Shares of Axa rose 3.4% at 9:21 a.m. in Paris, bringing gains this year to 9.3%.

The new payout target, which includes a pledge that the dividend per share will be at least equal to the one paid the year before, is part of a strategy update unveiled Thursday. As part of that plan, Axa targets growth in underlying earnings per share of 6% to 8% on average from 2023 until 2026, and aims to reach an underlying return on equity between 14% and 16% over the 2024 to 2026 period. 

Axa previously targeted dividend payments equal to 55% to 65% of underlying earnings per share. It didn’t have a goal for buybacks as part of its annual capital return policy, though had repurchased some €4.3 billion in stock since 2021. The buyback announced Thursday includes €500 million to avoid dilution from a reinsurance agreement announced in December.

Swiss rival Zurich Insurance Co. on Thursday announced an 8% increase in its dividend, along with a buyback of up to 1.1 billion francs ($1.3 billion). German rival Allianz SE is scheduled to report earnings on Friday.

(Updates with shares in fifth paragraph.)

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