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Booming life and health reinsurance unit boosts Swiss Re profit

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Improvements to Swiss Re Ltd.’s life and health reinsurance unit helped boost the Zurich-based reinsurer’s profits by 17% for the first quarter of this year, the company said Thursday.

Net income for the quarter ended March 31 climbed to $1.44 billion. Most of that came from a more than fourfold increase in profits for Swiss Re’s life and health reinsurance unit, which jumped 332.8% to $277 million in net income during the first quarter of 2015.

Swiss Re said in a statement Thursday that the life and health unit was boosted by the company’s efforts to address underperforming areas of that division last year.

This “first quarter’s performance is good evidence that our strategy for the segment is on track,” the statement said.

Swiss Re reported $7.56 billion in premiums earned and fee income for the first quarter of this year, up 0.15% from a year ago. Premiums across the reinsurer’s various segments remained relatively flat.

In a presentation to analysts and investors on Thursday, Swiss Re Group Chief Financial Officer David Cole said underwriting performance also helped the company’s earnings in the first quarter, as well as “benign” natural catastrophe losses during that period.

“Underwriting discipline is key, and you can be assured this remains at the heart of what we do,” Mr. Cole said in the presentation. “On the investment side, our active asset re-balancing over the past several years has helped to mitigate the effect of low interest rates.”