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Aegon, other insurers hit by U.S. COVID-19 deaths in third quarter

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By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch insurer Aegon NV reported a 16% fall in third- quarter operating profit on Thursday due to higher COVID-19 related mortality claims in the Americas, the latest European insurer to suffer from new waves of the pandemic.

Aegon, which does two-thirds of its business in the United States, said "unfavourable mortality claims" in the Americas in the third quarter were $111 million, up from $31 million a year earlier.

"Performance improvements across most of our businesses ... were offset by elevated mortality in the United States," Aegon Chief Executive Lard Friese in a statement.

Among other European insurers, Swiss Re said its life and health division incurred "significantly higher COVID-19 related claims of $1.2 billion" in the first nine months of 2021 "primarily originating in the U.S.". CEO John Dacey cited U.S. spikes in February and August.

Munich Re also saw a higher than expected COVID impact in its results earlier this week.

U.S. firm MetLife was hit at its domestic life operations in generally strong third-quarter earnings.

It said that in the third quarter, 40% of U.S. COVID-19 deaths were of people under 65 years old, "the highest percentage in any quarter since the pandemic began".

In a note, S&P Global Ratings said that the world's biggest reinsurance companies bear the lion's share of COVID-19 losses as they have "triple exposure" through Property & Casualty and Life reinsurance businesses, as well as through primary P&C businesses.

Aegon's 443 million euros ($512 million) operating profit for July-September compared a forecast of 490 million euros in a poll of analysts compiled by Aegon.

Friese added Aegon's fee and investment income were up and the company was meeting other performance targets.

Aegon shares, which were up 34% this year at their 4.31 euro close on Wednesday, were down nearly 2% at 4.228 euros at 1135 GMT on Thursday.

($1=0.8648 euros)

(Reporting by Toby Sterling, Tom Sims, Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Alexander Smith, Andrei Khalip)

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