German insurer Allianz said its net profit rose 19% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, in line with expectations, and said it was aiming for a larger operating profit target in 2019. 

Net profit attributable to shareholders of €1.697 billion compared with the €1.715 billion profit forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and was up from €1.427 billion a year earlier.

For 2018, Allianz earned €11.5 billion in operating profit, at the upper end of its targeted range of €11.1 billion, plus or minus €500m. 

The insurer had already flagged that it was highly likely to come in above the midpoint of the range. 

For 2019, Allianz said it is aiming for operating profit of €11.5 billion, plus or minus €500m. 

"Our healthy and well-diversified business makes us confident that we will continue to deliver a strong financial performance again this year," finance chief Giulio Terzariol said in a statement. 

Allianz and the insurance sector are bouncing back from losses incurred by hurricanes, fires and earthquakes in North America in 2017 - the industry's costliest year ever. 

Allianz's combined ratio in its property and casualty division, a key measure of profitability, was 94.1% in the fourth quarter, down 0.4 percentage point from a year earlier. 

Readings below 100 indicate profitability. 

It proposed a dividend of €9 per share, above expectations of €8.84 per share and above €8 per share last year. 

Allianz this week announced plans to buy back up to €1.5 billion in shares.