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Swiss Life Premiums Drop 3%, Says Markets Tough

First-quarter premium income from continuing operations at Swiss Life dropped 3 percent to 6.6 billion Swiss francs ($6.26 billion), but the life insurer saw no reason to revise its targets.

Premium income outside Switzerland rose 9 percent, but fell 8 percent in its core market Switzerland where premium prices dropped and large customers had decided to set up their own pension funds. Weaker stock markets also hurt.

"The downturn on the stock markets in the first three months also affected our investment result. But we have no reason to revise our targets," Chief Executive Rolf Doerig said in a statement on Tuesday.

It was the first time Swiss Life gave a first-quarter trading statement.

The sale of its Banca del Gottardo unit and of its Dutch and Belgian life insurance operations would add 1.45 billion francs to 2008 profit, the life insurer said.

The group, which competes with the life insurance units of France's AXA, Germany's Allianz and neighbour Zurich Financial, has gone through a drastic restructuring of its business in the last year.

It has sold its Belgian and Dutch operations and the Banca del Gottardo banking unit, and has bought German financial adviser AWD. Still flush with cash after the deals, it has also promised a 2.5 billion franc share buyback.