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(Reuters) — Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. is on track to meet or beat its financial targets to 2019 and is seeing positive trends in property/casualty insurance pricing.
Europe’s fifth-biggest insurer made the forecast on Thursday despite a 2% fall in property/casualty gross written premiums in dollar terms to $9.18 billion in the first quarter as a result of currency movements and the disposal of its ADAC business.
Prices increased around 2%, Zurich said, adding that it had been a “relatively benign” quarter for natural catastrophes although it gave no profit figures.
Its shares fell 0.9% in early trading while the European insurance sector index dropped 1.2%.
Life annual premium equivalent fell a reported 6% to $1.18 billion, also hit by the dollar’s strength.
Zurich Chief Financial Officer George Quinn had said in February he expected the group’s top line to be flat this year, with a last tranche of about $400 million in savings the main earnings driver.
Mr. Quinn said on Thursday P&C pricing had started to slow late last year after peaking at around 3% in the second quarter of 2018. It was back to the mid-to-lower 2% range in the first quarter, helped especially by business in North America, where pricing was up more than 4%.
“If this trend continues it does offer the potential to see some meaningful improvement in profitability,” Mr. Quinn said on a media conference call following the results.
He declined to comment on the impact of natural catastrophes on quarterly profit, but said: “If you look across the industry in general the quarter has been relatively benign. You haven’t seen the scale of events that say we saw for example in Q3 last year.”
(Reuters) — Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. announced a dividend increase on Thursday following a 24% jump in annual profit, and said that would set a floor for future payouts.