By Cristina Roca
Swiss Re AG said Thursday that its 2019 net profit rose strongly, and increased its dividend.
Net profit for the year was $727 million, up strongly from the previous year's $421 million net profit, the Swiss reinsurer said. Analysts had seen net income at $1.25 billion, according to a consensus estimate provided by FactSet.
Net premiums rose to $38.59 billion from $36.41 billion in 2018.
Net profit rose 7% at the company's property-and-casualty arm, even though the business was hit by $2.7 billion losses. These came from natural catastrophes--typhoons in Japan, Hurricane Dorian in the Atlantic and wildfires, floods and hailstorms in Australia-- as well as the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the subsequent grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX fleet, among other causes.
Swiss Re's life-and-health business increased net profit by 18%, while its corporate solutions and life capital units were loss-making in 2019.
The Zurich-based company will propose a dividend of 5.90 Swiss francs ($6.00) a share, up from CHF5.60 the year prior. It will also propose a CHF1 billion buyback program, it said.
"We are starting 2020 with an improved quality of our portfolio, underpinned by strong January renewals and pricing momentum," Swiss Re Group Chief Executive Christian Mumenthaler said.
The company said that for 2020, it will focus on completing the sale of its ReAssure business, whose listing plans it shelved earlier this year. Swiss Re will also focus on turning around its corporate solutions arm through portfolio pruning and rate increases, it said.
Swiss Re also named Jonathan Isherwood chief of its reinsurance Americas unit. He will succeed Eric Smith, who is retiring. Mr. Isherwood will take up the new role on April 1 and will also become regional Americas president and join the company's executive committee on Aug. 14.
Write to Cristina Roca at email@example.com; @_cristinaroca