UPDATE 1-Travelers profit tops estimates; to buy back $5 bln in shares

Tuesday, 22 Oct 2013 | 7:37 AM ET

* Third-quarter operating earnings/shr $2.35 vs est $2.05

* Board authorizes additional $5 bln share repurchase program

* Shares rise 3 pct premarket

Oct 22 (Reuters) - Travelers Cos Inc reported a third-quarter profit that beat analysts' estimates, and the U.S. insurer announced a $5 billion buyback program, sending its shares up 3 percent in trading before the bell.

Travelers, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average , said it benefited from customer retention and rate increases across all its businesses.

The company has been a bellwether of insurers' ability to raise prices after years of weakness.

Travelers reported flat third-quarter net income of $864 million. On a per share basis, earnings increased to $2.30 from $2.21 per share a year earlier.

The company reported operating earnings of $2.35 per share. On that basis, analysts on average had expected earnings of $2.05 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Travelers said the latest buyback was in addition to the $759 million that remained from a previous repurchase plan.

Catastrophe losses, net of reinsurance, rose to $99 million from $91 million a year earlier.

The company's shares were trading at $88.80 before the bell.

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