Swiss Re Quarterly Profit Falls on Higher Catastrophe Claims

The Natural Catastrophes Hurting Swiss Re's Profits

Swiss Re AG, the world’s biggest reinsurer, said profit fell in the second-quarter as the company paid more for catastrophe claims including earthquakes in Japan and forest fires in Canada.

Net income declined to $637 million from $820 million a year earlier, the Zurich-based company said in a statement on Friday. That beat the $605 million average estimate of nine analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

While reinsurers had to pay more for catastrophe claims in the second quarter to the primary insurers whom they help shoulder such risks, overall insured losses during the first half of the year were in line the average over the last 10 years, according to Munich Re estimates. Low claims are damping demand and prices for reinsurance, and investment income is being squeezed by record-low interest rates.

The second quarter “was marked by a difficult macroeconomic environment as well as more pronounced natural catastrophe losses and large reported claims in our Corporate Solutions business unit,” Christian Mumenthaler, who became chief executive officer on July 1 after Michel Lies retired, said in the statement.

The reinsurer, which oversees investments of about $140 billion, is moving more of its assets into corporate debt as low or negative interest rates on government bonds and volatile markets squeeze investment margins, Chief Investment Officer Guido Fuerer said in an interview last month. In the second quarter, Swiss Re’s return on investments fell to 3.7 percent from 4.2 percent a year ago.

Net income at property and casualty reinsurance, Swiss Re’s biggest unit, dropped 39 percent to $283 million “reflecting large natural catastrophe and man-made losses in the quarter,” the company said. It expects a loss of $220 million for the Canada wildfires that raged across northern Alberta in May, the most costly insured natural disaster in the country’s history.

The unit’s combined ratio, a profitability measure in property and casualty insurance, worsened to 101 percent in the quarter from 92.9 percent a year ago. A ratio greater than 100 means that an insurer is paying more in claims and costs than it is collecting in premiums.

The Corporate Solutions unit, which sells primary insurance to companies, reported a net loss of $25 million in the quarter after a year-earlier profit of $76 million as it booked losses from two large man-made casualty losses in 2015, Swiss Re said.

Swiss Re has lost 16 percent in Zurich trading this year, valuing the company at 30 billion francs. That compares with a 22 percent decline of the 32-member Bloomberg Europe 500 Insurance Index.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE