* Q3 profit up 7.3 pct to 141.5 mln eur vs poll avg 142 mln
* Gross premiums r1se 3.4 pct to 2.14 bln eur
* Combined ratio in first 9 months 96.9 pct
* Sees good Q4 barring disasters or market turmoil (Adds quotes and background)
VIENNA, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Strong business in emerging European markets helped third-quarter pretax profit at Vienna Insurance Group rise 7.3 percent to 141.5 million euros ($183.5 million), it said On Tuesday, meeting market expectations.
Analysts polled by Reuters had on average expected profit before tax of 142 million euros. Gross premiums grew 3.4 percent to 2.14 billion euros versus market expectations of 2.17 billion.
“Provided that no natural disasters occur and there are no adverse developments in the capital market, the management of Vienna Insurance Group believes that the positive developments seen in the first three quarters of 2012 will continue in the last quarter of this year,” it said.
Its combined ratio - a measure of underwriting profitability - was 96.9 percent for the first nine months of the year despite high claims due to severe weather, it added.
Chief Executive Peter Hagen said the Austrian group’s focus on central and eastern Europe (CEE), where it is market leader, was paying off, with more than half the group’s premiums and revenue coming from the CEE region.
“Our primary focus is on organic growth, although we are also open to suitable acquisition opportunities,” he added.
Hagen told reporters last month the group was reviewing “two or three” potential takeover candidates in the CEE region in deals that would be worth less than 100 million euros.
Vienna trades at around 10 times 12-month forward earnings, a premium to peers such as Zurich Financial at nearly 9 times and Swiss Life at under 7, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine, which ranks analyst estimates by previous accuracy.
$1 = 0.7713 euros Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Angelika Gruber and Mark Potter