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Cattolica beats 2020 operating profit fcast, confirms guidance

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MILANO (Reuters) - Italian insurer Cattolica Assicurazioni stuck to its guidance for the current year, after reporting a better-than-expected 2020 operating profit thanks to lower motor claims after COVID-19 restrictions cut traffic on the roads.

Cattolica, in which bigger rival Assicurazioni Generali is the top investor with a 24.4% stake followed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, has come under scrutiny by Italy's insurance supervisors.

The Verona-based company said its operating profit rose 37% year-on-year in 2020 to 412 million euros ($487 million), above a range of between 360-380 million euros it had provided in January.

However net profit last year more than halved to 36 million euro mainly due to an impairment Cattolica booked on its insurance joint-ventures with Banco BPM, whose terms the two companies have recently redefined.

Earlier this year Cattolica forecast its operating profit would fall to between 265-290 million euros in 2021 following the sale of its stake in the Lombarda Vita life insurance joint-venture to Intesa Sanpaolo in December.

($1 = 0.8462 euros)

(Reporting by Andrea Mandalà; editing by Valentina Za)