Zurich Hedges Help Insurer Recover From Catastrophes

Zurich Financial, the Swiss insurer, suffered worse underwriting profitability in the first nine months of 2011 as a series of natural disasters hit around the world.

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the New Zealand earthquake and Hurricane Irene in the U.S. have weighed down the company this year.

Net profit still rose 64 percent to $1.239 billion in the third quarter, up from $756 million a year earlier, as the insurer profited from a number of hedges.

Martin Senn, chief executive of Zurich Financial , told CNBC that this was partly because of hedging European stocks and hedging against falling interest rates.

"These hedges make sure that the solidity and solvency of the company remains strong," he said. "It's not the ambition of the company to generate additional income, but if it does we have to show it."

The company has around $12 billion of its bond holdings – or 6 percent of total investments - invested in peripheral euro zone countries. 

Its biggest exposure is to troubled Italy, with $5.7 billion, then Spain with $5 billion. However, it only has small interests in Portuguese and Irish bonds and owns no Greek debt.

"It's a challenging market, without any doubt, from natural catastrophes and from financial markets," Senn said.