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Disaster claims trigger losses for insurers

A series of natural disasters have had a strong impact on the first quarter earnings of reinsurer Swiss Re and insurance giant Zurich Financial Services.

Zurich-based Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest reinsurer, reported a heavy first quarter loss after the “very high level” of natural disaster claims.

The company reported a net loss of $665 million (SFr572 million) compared with a $158 million profit for the same quarter in 2010, following earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and floods in Australia.

Swiss Re said the accumulation of natural disaster events was expected to turn 2011 into a year with one of the highest historical natural catastrophe claims burdens. The company says it has weathered the period with strong capital, global diversification over types of risk and regions, and innovation.

In a statement on Thursday.CEO Stefan Lippe described the losses as “exceptionally high” and an additional challenge for the company but remained confident that Swiss Re would meet its five-year targets.

Zurich meanwhile reported a 32 per cent drop in first quarter profits to SFr548 million. Aggregate losses of $517 million were recorded for five natural disasters.

“Results were impacted by the significant catastrophe events in the Asia-Pacific region during the first three months of the year,” the company said on Thursday.

CEO Martin Senn said however the company had delivered a “solid underlying operating performance” despite the natural disasters. and agencies


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