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Swiss Re first-half profit drops by a third, prices keep falling in July


(Reuters) — Swiss Re Ltd. on Friday said it wrote 10% less business during the July property/casualty contract renewal season as rates continued to decline, albeit at a slowing pace.

First-half net profit fell 35% to $1.2 billion, after claims from natural disasters such as Australia's Cyclone Debbie compounded the impact of falling prices and a resulting cutback in business the reinsurer was willing to write.

"In the first half of 2017, we reported a solid result — despite the challenging market environment and having paid significant claims in the aftermath of natural catastrophes," Chief Executive Christian Mumenthaler said Friday. "While in the short term these drivers, especially the pricing pressures, are concerning and are being addressed, we are steering our company with long-term value creation in mind."

The profit lagged market estimates, which averaged $1.35 billion in a Reuters poll of eight analysts.

Swiss Re and other reinsurers act as financial backstops for insurance companies, helping them cover the cost of claims from natural and man-made disasters.

While insurance industry claims from natural disasters were down overall by nearly 40% in the first six months of 2017, according to estimates by reinsurer Munich Reinsurance Co., Swiss Re carried the largest portion of the burden from Cyclone Debbie, which caused an estimated $1.3 billion industry loss.

Its half-year property/casualty combined ratio, a measure of underwriting profitability, rose to 97.4% on the back of $320 million in Cyclone Debbie claims. A figure below 100% indicates a profit.

From January through July, the group said it had renewed an estimated $13.7 billion in property/casualty treaty volumes out of a total $15.8 billion up for renewal.

German rival Munich Re reports results on Aug. 9.