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Zurich expects to exceed all 2022 financial targets

·2-min read
The logo of Zurich Insurance is seen in Zurich

By Carolyn Cohn and Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) -Zurich Insurance said on Thursday it expects to exceed all its 2022 financial targets, as it reported a double-digit first-quarter rise in premiums and said its losses from the Ukraine conflict were likely to be immaterial.

Zurich, Europe's fifth-largest insurer, set out three-year targets in Nov 2019, including raising its target for business operating profit after tax return on equity to more than 14% from the previous goal of more than 12%.

"The positive operating trends in the first quarter, together with the Group’s very strong balance sheet, give us confidence that we will successfully conclude the current strategic cycle later this year," Group Chief Financial Officer George Quinn said in a statement.

Zurich's Swiss Solvency Test ratio rose to 234% from 212% a year ago.

Insurers were hit two years ago by the COVID-19 pandemic. But after excluding the pandemic from many policies and raising premiums, they have recovered ground.

Rival AXA in February raised its 2023 goals.

Zurich's P&C gross written premiums rose 12% on a like-for-like basis to $12 billion, helped by rate increases in commercial insurance.

Life insurance new business annual premium equivalent (APE) rose 14% on a like-for-like basis to $1 billion.

Jefferies analysts said the results showed "impressive revenue growth", reiterating their "hold" rating on the stock. Zurich's shares fell 0.18% but were one of the best performers in the blue-chip SMI index.

Zurich said its direct exposure to Russia and Ukraine through its P&C operations and investment portfolio was expected to be "immaterial".

Many insurers have suffered losses from the war in Ukraine, with more expected to unfold.

Swiss Re last week said it set aside $283 million in reserves for the war.

CEO Mario Greco told Reuters earlier this year that Zurich was planning to sell its portfolio of German life insurance policies which are closed to new customers, after it sold its Italian life and pensions back book to Portuguese insurer GamaLife.

Quinn told a media call on Thursday that he hoped to be able to say more on the insurer's back book plans "before the year is over".

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn in London and Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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