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Insurer Zurich sticks to Swiss job cuts plan

Zurich Insurance Group

Photo Zurich Insurance Group

Zurich Insurance says net profit rose in the first quarter of 2014 from the same period a year earlier, thanks to returns on its investments but it is continuing with a plan to cut hundreds of jobs in Switzerland and elsewhere.

The Swiss group, which in March announced a restructuring programme to reduce its payroll, said on Thursday that earnings for the first three months of the year reached $1.2 billion, outstripping analysts’ forecasts of $1 billion.

Operating profit rose by two percent to $1.3 billion.

The group’s combined ratio — a measure of how effective insurers are at balancing administrative costs and payouts to clients against premiums paid in — was 93.9 percent, an improvement from the 94.9 percent during the same period last year.

“This is a solid start to the year,” said George Quinn, Zurich Insurance’s chief financial officer, in a statement.

Quinn said that the combined ratio had benefited from a “relatively benign catastrophe environment”, as well as a one-off gain from the group’s pension fund.

“We see some early positive signs in the execution of our strategic targets for 2014 to 2016 but there is still much to do,” he said.

“As announced in March, we are implementing a programme to streamline the company.”

The three-year programme aims to save Zurich Insurance $250 million by the end of 2015, with measures including cutting 800 jobs and removing management layers between the group and its business units.

Most of the job cuts are set to be in Switzerland, and to a lesser extent in Britain and Ireland, Quinn said.


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