CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-ACE raises profit outlook despite US crop insurance claims

Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:01pm EDT

(Corrects to clarify that ACE sees a higher loss ratio in the crop insurance business from higher claims)

July 24 (Reuters) - ACE Ltd's quarterly operating profit trumped analysts' expectations on lower catastrophe losses and the company raised its full-year profit forecast despite projected higher claims at its U.S. crop insurance segment.

The company now expects an operating profit of between $7.20 and $7.60 per share, up from its previous forecast of between $7.03 and $7.43 per share.

Ace raised the outlook despite higher claims in its crop insurance segment. The company expects its year-to-date crop insurance loss ratio to rise in the third quarter, knocking 19 cents off its full-year profit.

As the U.S. midwest suffers through the worst drought in more than 50 years and corn crops wither in the fields, a record number of farmers are likely preparing to file insurance claims this year.

Ace's Rain and Hail division and rival Everest Re's Heartland Crop Insurance are the dominant players in the U.S. crop insurance market.

The Zurich-based property and casualty insurer's second-quarter net earnings fell to $328 million, or 96 cents per share, for the second quarter, from $594 million, or $1.74 per share, a year earlier.

On an operating basis, the insurer earned $2.17 per share, above analysts' expectations of $1.92 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Ace's shares, which have risen more than 6 percent in the last year, closed at $69.17 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Anil D'Silva and Jochelle Mendonca in Bangalore; Editing by Roshni Menon)