The world's biggest reinsurer Munich Re reported a bigger than expected jump in first quarter profits - and warned that prices would continue to rise.

Net profits, excluding a one-off gain from selling shares in Allianz, rose to E700m (£444m) compared to €255m (£162m) in the first quarter of last year.

Chief executive Hans-Jürgen Schinzler warned that the reinsurance giant would seek further price increases and was also on the lookout for acquisitions in the European personal lines insurance sector.

He said: "In reinsurance we reached important intermediate goals in the renewals of treaties at 1 January and 1 April 2002, achieving substantial improvements in prices and conditions.

"These pleasing developments have contributed to the strong growth in the first quarter of 2002. Where prices are not yet risk-adequate, we will press for further adjustments at the next treaty renewals."

The high prices for reinsurance brought Munich Re's combined ratio crashing in the first quarter to 101.7% from 112.1%.

The combined ratio for the whole of 2001 was 135.1%.