SCOR P&C GWP are up 17.6% compared with 2020, following strong 2021 renewals in Reinsurance and Specialty Insurance. The net combined ratio stands at 100.6%, including 12.8% of natural catastrophes, well above the cat budget. SCOR L&H GWP are up 3.6% compared with 2020. Over the period, SCOR L&H delivers a technical margin of 10.3%, driven by the Life in-force transaction executed in H1 2021. SCOR Investments delivers a return on invested assets of 2.3%5 6 in 2021.
The Group cost ratio, which stands at 4.4% of gross written premiums in 2021, is more favorable than the "Quantum Leap" assumption of ~5.0%
The Group net income increased to EUR 456 million in 2021, up 94.9% compared with 2020. The return on equity (ROE) stands at 7.2%, 680 bps above the risk-free rate. The Group generates high operating cash flows of EUR 2,406 million in 2021, of which EUR 860 million relate to the Life in-force transaction. The Group's total liquidity is very strong, standing at EUR 2.3 billion as of December 31, 2021
The Group shareholders' equity stands at EUR 6,402 million as of December 31, 2021. This results in a book value per share of EUR 35.26, compared to EUR 33.01 as of December 31, 2020. The Group financial leverage stands at 27.8% as of December 31, 2021, down 0.7% points compared to December 31, 2020. The Group solvency ratio is estimated at 226% on December 31, 2021, above the optimal solvency range of 185% - 220% as defined in the "Quantum Leap" strategic plan.
With its strong capital position, SCOR is proposing a dividend of EUR 1.80 per share for the fiscal year 2021. This dividend will be submitted to the approval of the shareholders at the 2022 Annual General Meeting, to be held on May 18, 2022. The board recommends to set the coupon date at May 20, 2022 and the payment date at May 24, 2022.
This comes on top of the EUR 200 million share buyback announced in October - decided on the basis of the Group's high solvency ratio - of which EUR 164 million is already completed9 and which will be fully executed by the end of March 2022. The buyback and the proposed dividend imply a combined capital return to shareholders of EUR 523 million.
At the end of 2021, the solvency ratio stands at 226%, above the upper end of the optimal solvency range. Prior to capital return initiatives (dividend and buyback), the solvency ratio stands at 237%. The main drivers for the change in solvency at the end of 2021 compared to the end of 2020 include: i) Life in-force retrocession transaction (+27% pts), ii) operating capital generation excluding Covid-19 (+8% pts), capital deployment (-8% pts), Covid-19 impact (-17% pts), market variances (+18% pts) and other movements (-11% pts).
Denis KESSLER, Chairman of SCOR, comments: "By executing the "Quantum Leap" strategic plan, SCOR has successfully demonstrated its shock-absorbing capacity throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The Life in-force retrocession transaction concluded at the end of H1 2021 also allowed the Group to demonstrate the value of its Life reinsurance portfolio, providing strong optionality to optimally allocate its capital. Although 2021 was quite a challenging year, SCOR delivered a strong profitability and its solvency position is now more robust than it was a year ago, even after taking into account the EUR 200 million share buyback to be fully executed by the end of March 2022, and the strong dividend of EUR 1.80 per share that will be proposed at the Annual General Meeting for 2021."