Zurich hit by Japan and NZ quake claims

 
City A.M. Reporter
INSURER Zurich Financial Services has posted a 32 per cent drop in first-quarter profit from a year earlier, a bigger fall than analysts had expected, on big payouts from catastrophes in New Zealand and Japan.

The disaster in Japan is one of the costliest natural catastrophes in the history of global insurers, having caused insured losses of $12bn (£7.3bn) to $25bn, according to risk modelling firm Eqecat.

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

“The slow economic recovery in the US and much of Europe also impacted results.”

The Swiss-listed insurer said it had aggregate losses of $517m in the first-quarter from Japan’s devastating earthquake and other regional disasters, compared to an initial estimate for $500m.

Zurich posted a first-quarter net profit of $637m, compared with an analyst estimate of $766m.

Profit in general insurance, its biggest segment, was driven down 56 per cent in dollar terms due to the high catastrophe payouts.

This led to a deterioration of the combined ratio – a measure of profitability – to 103.6 per cent from 99 per cent a year earlier.

Zurich also said it had extended a distribution agreement with Deutsche Bank for life and general insurance policies in Germany for a further 10 years.

Shares in Zurich fell 3.5 per cent yesterday on the Swiss Exchange to close at SwFr235.10.