Better underwriting and price rises see first quarter revival

Non-life insurance led the way in improved first quarter results from Zurich Financial Services (ZFS).

A 241% increase in the sector's business operating profit to $536m (£326m) from $157m (£95.5m) was put down to better underwriting and price rises.

It helped contribute to a doubling of underlying business operating profits to $785m from $391m last year.

The recovery comes after ZFS had to launch a $2.5bn rights issue last year and its replacement of chief executive and chairman Rolf Hüppi. The group's combined ratio improved by 5.9% to 98.2% from 104.1%.

However, net income was just $114m after impairment charges totalling $927m.

Non-life premiums increased by 21% in local currency terms to $9.8bn from $7.4bn last year.

Rate increases were higher on commercial lines than personal.

The group's non-life operations in the UK, Ireland and South Africa achieved a combined ratio of 99.8%, down from 104.2% last year. This reflected a fall in the expense ratio, down to 22.6% from 24.8%, and the net loss ratio, down to 77.2% from 79.4%.

Hüppi's replacement as chief executive, Jim Schiro, said: "We inherited a great franchise as well as significant challenges."