Zurich's European general insurance division reported a 40% increase in half-year operating profit compared to the previous half year.

For the half year ended 30 June 2005, business operating profit swelled to $714m (£397m) from $509m (£283m) in the same period in 2004.

The combined ratio improved nearly three points to 94.7% from 97.4%. Gross written premiums increased 3% to $7.1bn (£3.95bn).

The company said "smaller losses and better expense controls" generated improvements in profits.

' Zurich has announced the management line-up for its newly merged commercial and municipal business unit.

David Smith will become market management director. He will take responsibility for developing the company's regional operations, specialist units, sales and risk management.

The UK commercial company's regional directors will maintain their current positions but assume some new responsibilities. Regional director Gary Wainwright will focus on major customer propositions, while Rob Allison will focus on the SME markets, and Paul Greenwood will take responsibility for the small business proposition.

Guy Munnoch was appointed managing director of the commercial and municipal unit in June