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Zurich Insurance earnings beat expectations

A logo on a sign outside Zurich Insurance Group AG's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
Gianluca Colla | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A logo on a sign outside Zurich Insurance Group AG's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Zurich Insurance Group said on Thursday that its third-quarter net profit was $1.103 billion compared with market expectations in a Reuters poll of $1.048 billion.

Shares of the group were trading up 2.62 percent on Thursday morning.

In the second quarter of 2013, the Swiss insurer had reported a 27 percent drop in net profits to $789 million, weighed down by flooding in Europe, tornadoes in the United States and meager investment returns.

The third-quarter results are the first to be released since an investigation into the suspected suicide of the company's former chief financial officer, Pierre Wauthier, cleared the company of any wrongdoing that led to his death.

Two independent investigations conducted by the Swiss financial market watchdog FINMA into the apparent suicide found "no indication that Pierre Wauthier was subjected to any undue or inappropriate pressure," Zurich said after the investigations concluded in early November.

Wauthier, 53, died in August and a note left at the scene blamed Zurich's then-chairman Josef Ackermann for putting him under pressure. Ackermann denied this, but resigned a few days later.

Chief executive officer Martin Senn told CNBC that the company had been through a "very, very difficult period" since Wauthier's death.

"But with the closing of the investigation we have confidence and confirmation of what we knew --that our numbers are solid and our accounting was appropriate and that there was no undue pressure on Pierre Wauthier --this is in line with Zurich's values," he told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box."

He said an external and internal search was ongoing for a new CFO and the group would inform markets as soon as it had made a decision. "It is a very high priority," he said.

He said that, overall, the group had delivered "a solid operating profit in all core segments" for the first nine months of 2013 and in the group's earnings statement said this had come against a backdrop of a fragile global economic recovery.

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