May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Swiss Life Holding AG, Switzerland’s biggest life insurer, said first-quarter premiums declined 1 percent as sales at its French and international units fell. The shares slumped as much as 3.4 percent.
Gross written premiums declined to 6.9 billion Swiss francs ($7.8 billion) from 6.97 billion francs in the year-earlier period, the Zurich-based company said today. The French unit, Swiss Life’s second-biggest business, posted a decline of 4 percent to 1.15 billion francs.
“The foreign operations show a clear slowdown in growth in terms of revenue,” Georg Marti, a Zurich-based analyst with Zuercher Kantonalbank, wrote in a note to investors.
Swiss Life is seeking to bolster profit by cutting costs and boosting sales in its home market and France. Chief Investment Officer Patrick Frost, 45, will become chief executive officer in July, as the company expands its asset management unit, which increased the funds it oversees by 4 percent to 28.6 billion francs in its external customer business in the first quarter.
Premiums at the company’s international unit, which sells life policies known as wrappers to wealthy clients of Swiss private banks, dropped 41 percent to 404 million francs. Premiums at the German unit declined 14 percent.
Swiss Life fell 2.5 percent to 213 francs by 10:24 a.m. in Zurich, paring this year’s gain to 18 percent. The stock is the second-best performer on the 33-company Bloomberg Europe 500 Insurance Index.
Net investment returns were 1 percent in the quarter compared with 1.4 percent in the year-earlier period, the insurer said. The solvency capital ratio, a gauge of its ability to cover claims and write new business, was 226 percent.
“We maintained our focus on profitable growth and further improved premium quality,” CEO Bruno Pfister said in the statement. He added the company is “on track” to meet its 2015 targets.
In Switzerland, premiums rose 7 percent to 4.93 billion francs, driven by demand for pension provisions from small and medium-sized companies.
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