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Swiss Re Loyal to Troubled Unit, Sees Fast Buyback

Reinsurer Swiss Re said it is committed to the Financial Services unit that was the source of last month's large subprime writedown and said it was likely to speed up its share buyback program.

The world's largest reinsurer shocked markets on November 19 with a 1.2 billion Swiss franc ($1.06 billion) writedown related to credit default swaps, but on Tuesday dismissed speculation it would pull out of the business altogether.

"Swiss Re remains committed to its Financial Services business," the company said in slides prepared for a presentation at an investor day in London later on Tuesday.

The unit plays a pivotal role in Chief Executive Jacques Aigrain's plans to turn Swiss Re into the investment bank among reinsurers, creating complex financial instruments to spread risks to capital markets.

Swiss Re's shares have dropped some 13 percent since the writedown and the group is expected to use the meeting -- which starts at 3 pm London time -- to boost flagging confidence in its strategy and provide more detail on the troubled unit.

Analysts welcomed the fact that the company said it was "highly likely" it would finish its 6 billion franc share buyback program ahead of schedule.

"They have plenty of cash ... In the (scuppered) deal with Resolution and Standard Life, they've shown they can quickly free up 5 billion francs, so they are holding a lot of excess capital," said Rene Locher at Sal. Oppenheim.

Swiss Re's bid with UK insurer Standard Life for Resolution fell through last month when rival Pearl closed in on Resolution.

Swiss Re had agreed to buy certain Resolution assets for 2.35 billion pounds ($4.8 billion).

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