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ZURICH, May 4 (Reuters) - First-quarter net profit at Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest reinsurer, fell nearly 47 percent after outlays on claims from Australia’s Cyclone Debbie stripped $350 million from its bottom line, it said on Thursday.
The drop in profit, which fell shy of analyst estimates in a Reuters poll, was offset by better-than-expected underwriting profitability.
Shares were indicated 1.1 percent higher in pre-market trade.
Swiss Re and other reinsurers act as financial backstops for insurance companies, helping them cover the cost of claims from natural and manmade disasters.
Cyclone Debbie in late March slammed into tourist resorts in Australia’s Queensland region and shut coal mines and commercial centres over a 1,000-km stretch. Swiss Re took the biggest hit from what it estimated to be a $1.3 billion industry loss.
Its first-quarter property and casualty combined ratio, a measure of underwriting profitability, rose to 95.6 percent on the back of Debbie’s impact. A figure below 100 percent indicates a profit.
Swiss Re in February said it expects a P&C combined ratio of around 100 percent this year, meaning it expects to collect roughly as much in premiums as it will have to pay out in claims.
At group level, gross incoming premiums fell 10.5 percent as the reinsurer turned down more business in response to falling industry prices.
Price falls continued at a similar pace during the industry’s April renewals round, Swiss Re said on Thursday, and the group wrote 2 percent less business during the round.
“We have responded decisively to the continued pricing pressure across the industry by not accepting unprofitable business, and our top line clearly shows that,” Chief Executive Christian Mumenthaler said in a statement.
German rival Munich Re -- which expects profit to fall 8-15 percent this year due to low interest rates, continued price declines and technology investments -- posts first-quarter results on May 9. (Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields)