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Hurricanes damage Zurich profit

Swiss insurer Zurich Financial Services on Thursday reported a 90 per cent drop in third quarter profit after pre-tax writedowns of $1.1 billion (SFr1.3 billion).

It blamed hurricanes Gustav and Ike in the United States, which cost the firm $595 million, but said it had performed well under the circumstances.

Net income attributable to shareholders fell to $154 million in the three months ending September 30, from nearly $1.55 billion in the same period last year, the company said in a statement.

"In the face of such turbulent times, I am particularly pleased in our ability to deliver continued profits and maintain our high solvency ratio," remarked chief executive James Schiro.

The company's shareholder equity also decreased 17 per cent to $23.9 billion, Zurich said.

The insurer benefited from a one-off accounting gain of $357 million thanks to regulatory changes in German insurance law.