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Swiss Life Profit Handily Tops Expectations

Swiss Life's first-half net profit rose 21%, comfortably beating expectations, and the insurer said on Tuesday it would set new financial goals in December.

Net profit was 635 million Swiss francs ($525.7 million), well ahead of the the average expectation in a Reuters survey of 9 analysts for 558 million francs.

"We expect to achieve the profit target set for 2008 of 1 billion francs already in 2007 ... we will communicate new strategic and financial targets in December," the life insurer said. Full-year 2006 net profit was 954 million francs.

Gross written premiums were 14.0 billion francs, up 10 percent from a year ago, said Swiss Life, which has a market value of around $8.2 billion.

Swiss Life's home market is largely stagnant and the group is relying on its markets abroad for growth, with countries such as France and Germany reviewingtheir state pension schemes, increasing the market for private insurers.

Analysts had been hoping for signs Swiss Life might be looking for a buyer for its anaemic Banca del Gottardo unit, which they say could give the shares a much-needed boost.

But Swiss Life has always said the private banking unit is part of its core business.

Swiss Life's embedded value -- an industry benchmark to measure the value of
a life insurance portfolio -- rose 17% to 12.5 billion francs, with the value of new business climbing 6%.