REFILE-Zurich Insurance Q1 net profit

Thu May 10, 2012 1:18am EDT

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ZURICH May 10 (Reuters) - Zurich Insurance Group beat expectations on Thursday with a 78 percent rise in first-quarter profit, thanks in part to very few natural catastrophes during the period and a rise in premium income.

The firm, previously known as Zurich Financial Services, recorded a net profit of $1.143 billion for the first three months of the year. A Reuters poll of analyst forecast a net profit of $997 million.

"(We saw) sustained momentum in developing high-potential growth markets," Europe's second-biggest insurer by market capitalisation said in a statement.

The strong rise in profit occurred in part because profit last year was blighted by an unusually high number of natural catastrophes such as the tsunami in Japan.

(Reporting by Catherine Bosley)

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