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High catastrophe claims weigh on Zurich Financial


ZURICH (Reuters)—Zurich Financial Services Ltd. said catastrophe claims were unusually high this year and had weighed on its underwriting profitability.

Net profit still rose 64% to $1.239 billion in the third quarter, compared with $756 million a year earlier, when the Zurich-based insurer booked some $400 million in exceptional charges.

In general insurance, Zurich's biggest segment, the combined ratio—a measure of underwriting profitability—worsened to 98.8% for the first nine months of the year.

Zurich said its efforts to improve its margins were more than offset by the frequency and severity of natural disasters in the first nine months of the year, including the New Zealand earthquake and Hurricane Irene in the United States.

That is set to make 2011 the worst catastrophe year since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, it said.