Swiss Re Q2 profit slumps on natural catastrophes but beats expectations

Profits fall at reinsurance firm Swiss Re

Swiss Re, the world's second-largest reinsurer, said on Friday second-quarter net profit fell 22 percent after a series of natural disasters hit the group's returns.

The net profit fell to $637 million in the quarter, beating analysts' estimates in a Reuters poll, and was welcomed by new Chief Executive Christian Mumenthaler as a solid result in a period marked by natural catastrophes and a difficult macroeconomic environment.

"I can assure you that delivering on (our financial) targets remains our top priority," Mumenthaler, who took over as CEO in July, said in a video presentation.

Net profit for the first six months fell to $1.87 billion from $2.26 billion a year before, when numbers were boosted by healthy investment returns and low claims.

Philipp Schmidli | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Swiss Re and other reinsurers act as financial backstops for insurance companies, helping them cover the cost of claims ranging from natural and manmade disasters from hurricanes to the 2015 explosion at China's port of Tianjin.

The industry has been squeezed by low interest rates and falling industry prices, and was particularly hard hit in the second quarter by the aftermath of storms in Europe and the United States, as well as earthquakes in Japan and Canada's costliest-ever wildfire.

Swiss Re's second-quarter property and casualty combined ratio, a measure of underwriting profitability, was 101 percent, matching a Reuters poll average. A figure below 100 percent indicates a profit, while a figure above 100 percent indicates a loss.

Swiss Re said it had been able to increase the volume of contracts it signed in the July renewal season through a focus on large and tailored transactions, but added that prices in general remained under pressure.

"The price environment for property and casualty reinsurance continued to be challenging, with continued price erosion in property," Swiss Re said. "Even though abundant capital continues to pressure rates, it does so to a much lesser extent than previously."

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