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Generali profit rises, capital reserves hit by new rules


(Reuters) — Assicurazioni Generali SpA, Italy’s biggest insurer, reported a larger-than-expected 28% rise in first-quarter net profit helped by asset sales, though capital ratios fell due to regulatory changes.

Generali’s solvency ratio, a key measure of financial strength, stood at 207% at the end of March, down from 217% three months earlier, largely due to expected regulatory changes, the company said.

Analysts had looked on average for a solvency ratio of 213% in the first quarter in a consensus provided by the company.

“The capital position is solid and allows us to face market volatility,” Chief Financial Officer Cristiano Borean told a news briefing.

Generali holds €59.5 billion in Italian government bonds and is exposed, like other insurers in the country, to fluctuations in Italian bond prices which are sensitive to potential political instability and fragile public finances.

Mr. Borean said the first-quarter regulatory hit on the solvency ratio would be a one-off for the year. He said the next adoption of regulatory changes was scheduled for the first quarter of 2020 with an estimated impact on the solvency ratio of less than 2 percentage points.

The insurer said on Thursday net profit rose to €744 million ($834 million) in the three months to the end of March, boosted by a capital gain of €128 million from the sale of Belgian assets.

Analysts were looking on average for a net profit of €715 million.

In the past three years, Generali has raised €1.5 billion from disposals, exiting a dozen nonstrategic countries. It has also raised €1.9 billion from the sale of its German life insurance business Generali Leben.

Operating profit rose came in at €1.35 billion, up 7% year-on-year- and above an average analyst forecast of €1.28 billion.

The combined ratio, a measure of profitability and financial health of an insurance company, stood at 91.5%.

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