Swiss Re posts 21% hike in net profit, beats forecasts

Switzerland-based reinsurance giant Swiss Re on Thursday posted a first quarter net profit that was 21 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier at $1.4 billion (1.1 billion euros), as fewer catastrophes resulted in lower-than-expected claims.

The strong result, which was also driven by soaring activity in the company's crucial property and casualty reinsurance division, easily beat market expectations.

Analysts polled by Swiss financial newswire AWP had expected Swiss Re to rake in just $1.06 billion during the first three months of the year.

"The primary driver for this performance was a very strong underwriting result," the company said in its earnings statement, stressing that "lower than expected claims due to the absence of major man-made or natural catastrophes (also) contributed to the result."

The world's second largest re-insurance company said it had pocketed $6.8 billion in premiums during the quarter, up nine percent from the same period a year earlier.

The group's combined ratio, an indicator of an insurer's performance which divides its claims and expense ratios by premiums revenues, declined to 72.4 percent for the period, from 84.9 percent a year earlier.

Property and casualty reinsurance activities meanwhile took in just over $1.0 billion during the quarter, for a gain of 53 percent.

"We are starting our 150th anniversary year with a very strong first quarter result," company chief executive Michel Lies said in the earnings statement.

"The successful April renewals are another proof of Swiss Re's ability to perform and grow despite economic headwinds and a continuous low interest rate environment," he added.

Following the news, the insurer's stock slipped by a slight 0.07 percent in mid-morning trading to 73.90 Swiss francs a share, while the Swiss stock exchange's main SMI index shed 0.4 percent.