By Scott Kanowsky
Investing.com -- Shares in Zurich Insurance Group (SIX:ZURN) rose in early European trading on Thursday after the Swiss insurer reported first-half core income at its highest level since 2008 and above analyst estimates.
Group operating profit jumped by a quarter during the period to $3.39B, topping a company-compiled forecast of $3.28B, thanks in part to strong performance at its key property and casualty unit. Higher prices, as well as lower natural catastrophe and weather claims, helped the division's combined ratio - a major underwriting profitability gauge - come in at a record 91.9%.
Zurich's life insurance business also posted a 13% rise in operating profit as a fall in COVID-19 claims offset headwinds from a stronger U.S. dollar.
Chief executive officer Mario Greco said that Zurich is on track to beat all of its targets for the second straight three-year cycle despite recent "unprecedented and unexpected challenges" in the market for insurers.
"These results show our agility and our commitment to deliver results, no matter what happens in the markets," Greco added in a statement.
Zurich also announced a CHF 1.8B share buyback to minimize the impact of an anticipated earnings dilution stemming from the sale of its Germany life insurance back book. The capital returns are expected to begin in the coming months, Zurich said.