Zurich has reported a 40% decrease in business operating profit to $1.7bn (£1.2bn) in the first half of 2020, compared with $2.8bn (£2.1bn) during the same period last year.
The firm said the underlying business performance was “broadly in line” with the previous year’s, with the decline largely due to an overall Covid-19 related impact of $686m (£523m) and the pandemic’s impact on financial markets leading to less favorable performance of the group’s investments, in particular in hedge funds.
Zurich said the first-half result was also impacted by higher catastrophe-related claims, mainly related to weather events and civil unrest.
However, over the first half of the year, commercial insurance gross written premiums, which make up around 70% of the group’s P&C premiums, grew by 8% on a like-for-like basis, supported by “significant” rate increases in North America as well as in Europe.
The group said it is “well positioned” to grow the commercial insurance business after its portfolio was reshaped and profit improved over the period 2016 to 2019.
Group chief executive officer, Mario Greco, said: “The first half of 2020 has been an unprecedented period with unforeseeable events ranging from a global pandemic and recession, to civil unrest and a higher rate of natural catastrophes.
“In this context, our priority has been to focus on our customers, colleagues and the communities in which we operate. We delivered on our commitments to our customers and provided a wide range of additional support and financial relief such as premium rebates and payment holidays.”
He added: “We moved quickly to protect our colleagues, switching early to home office and providing hospitalization benefits to them and their families. We are pleased that our actions have increased trust and confidence in Zurich among customers and colleagues alike.”