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MILAN, May 4 (Reuters) - Italy’s biggest insurer Generali topped forecasts on Friday when its profit in the first three months rose 8.6 percent, driven by a strong performance in non-life business.
Net profit in the first quarter came in at 581 million euros ($696 million), slightly above an analyst consensus provided by the company of 575 million euros.
“The results of the first quarter allow us to look at the rest of the year with optimism as we successfully complete our strategic plan,” said Chief Financial Officer Luigi Lubelli.
The group also strengthened its capital position as asset disposals continue. Its regulatory solvency ratio - an indicator of financial strength - rose 3 percentage points to 211 percent.
Europe’s No. 3 insurer, present in more than 60 countries, is looking to sell businesses in about a dozen countries to shrink its global business and shore up capital.
Last month it agreed to sell its Belgian operations for 540 million euros, taking overall proceeds from sales above a target of 1 billion euros.
“The (disposals) process is not yet finished,” Lubelli said in a call on results.
Operating profit in the first three months rose 4.9 percent to 1.25 billion euros, beating expectations.
The combined ratio - a measure of profitability in non-life business - improved to 91.4 percent despite the impact of 76 million euros in catastrophe claims due to storms in Germany and France.
Italian broker Banca Akros said it expected a positive impact from the results, mainly thanks to Generali’s better operating profit, its “best in class” combined ratio, an improvement in life margins and a solid capital position.
Generali shares were up 1 percent in early trade while the European insurance index was up 0.3 percent.
$1 = 0.8344 euros Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Adrian Croft