UPDATE 2-Munich Re's profits rise despite jump in claims

Thu Aug 7, 2014 7:26am EDT

* Q2 net profit 765 mln eur vs Rtrs poll 800 mln eur

* Maintains 3 bln eur full year profit target

* Premium volume for July 1 renewals fell around 7 pct

* Pricing for July 1 renewals fell 3.6 pct points

* Shares 1.9 percent lower vs flat insurance index (Changes dateline, adds analysts, company comment, shares)

By Andreas Kröner

MUNICH, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer, reported a 45 percent rise in its second-quarter net profit on Thursday but disappointed investors with a surprise jump in claims and evidence of continued pricing pressures.

Net profit in the three months ended June rose to 765 million euros ($1 billion) from 528 million in the same period last year, driven by a two-thirds rise in investment income while property-casualty reinsurance was hit by a rise in disaster claims like the April earthquake in Chile.

"The quality of the result is disappointing at first glance given a weaker than expected reinsurance underwriting result and a higher investment result," DZ Bank analyst Thorsten Wenzel said in a note to clients.

However, Munich Re said 180 million euros in claims from a snow storm in Japan in February were not booked until the second quarter, distorting results. A series of about 25 fires, explosions and other man-made disasters also weighed on the April-June period.

Payouts for major losses rose to 617 million euros from 605 million a year earlier, the company said.

TOUGH MARKET

Munich Re is battling widespread weakness in reinsurance prices and has been developing tailor-made products for its insurance company clients to lessen its dependence on the traditional reinsurance market.

Pension and hedge fund investors have poured capital into specialised funds that offer reinsurance, hoping to earn more profit than they can elsewhere in the capital markets.

While this has put them into direct competition with products offered by traditional players like Munich Re, Swiss Re and Hannover Re, reinsurers have also hurt themselves by undercutting each other's prices, said Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek.

"It is not very economically sensible behaviour," Jeworrek told a news conference, adding that Munich Re had chosen not to renew big chunks of business when prices were too low for the risk.

Munich Re's premium volume fell by more than 7 percent, of which 3.6 percentage points was due to weaker pricing, in the latest round of renewing contracts with insurance company clients in July.

That stands in sharp contrast to Swiss Re, which on Wednesday reported an 8 percent increase in premium volume in the July renewals.

Chief Executive Nikolaus von Bomhard declined to comment on Swiss Re's increase but said there were signs that the downtrend was slowing.

"I am cautiously optimistic that the market will find a bottom in the course of this year," he told the news conference.

The company made no change to its target of earning a net profit of 3 billion euros this year.

Analysts on average had expected a quarterly net profit of 800 million euros, according to a Reuters poll.

Munich Re's share pared losses to trade down 1.9 percent at 149.15 euros by 1000 GMT, when the STOXX Europe 600 insurance sector index was unchanged.

"Earnings are starting to show some weakness from continued soft markets but capital continues to be strong and supports further share buy-backs," BersteinResearch wrote in a note.

"While the stock will be weak in the very short term, the strong total yield will support it close to current levels," BersteinResearch added. (1 US dollar = 0.7470 euros) (Writing by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Thomas Atkins and Greg Mahlich)

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