(Adds CEO quotes)
PARIS, July 31 French reinsurer Scor posted on Thursday a 35.4 percent increase in first-half net profit as its property and casualty business benefited from a low level of major catastrophes.
The company said net profit reached 256 million euros (342.9 million US dollars) in the first half as gross written premiums rose 12.5 percent at constant exchange rates to 5.427 billion euros.
Scor saw "healthy" renewals of property and casualty contracts while its global life unit won important new business, it said in a statement. Premiums were also boosted by the purchase of Generali US Life Re last year.
"We're seeing an improvement in our general business ... in the context of low level of catastrophes," Chief Executive Denis Kessler told journalists on a conference call.
Kessler said that Scor's diversification had helped limit the impact of tariff decreases that insurers have been extracting from reinsurers recently, especially in the United States.
Similarly, diversification helped minimise the impact of record low interest rates in the euro zone with the majority of Scor's assets in dollars or pounds, currencies benefitting from stronger economic fundamentals, Kessler said.
He estimated that the group faced claims of a combined 25-35 million euros from the crashes this month of an Air Algerie flight in Mali and an Malaysian Airlines airplane in Ukraine as well as an attack on Tripoli's airport in which more than a dozen planes have been damaged.
"The three disasters are in our jargon non-material, that is to say, they won't disturb the group's profitability in the third quarter," Kessler added.
(1 US dollar = 0.7465 euro) (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by James Regan and Andrew Callus)