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MILAN, May 16 (Reuters) - Generali, Italy’s biggest insurer, reported a larger-than-expected 28 percent rise in first-quarter net profit helped by asset sales, though capital ratios fell due to regulatory changes.
Generali’s solvency ratio, a key measure of financial strength, stood at 207% at the end of March, down from 217% three months earlier, largely due to expected regulatory changes, the company said.
Analysts had looked on average for a solvency ratio of 213% in the first quarter in a consensus provided by the company.
“The capital position is solid and allows us to face market volatility,” Chief Financial Officer Cristiano Borean told a news briefing,
Generali holds 59.5 billion euros in Italian government bonds and is exposed, like other insurers in the country, to fluctuations in Italian bond prices which are sensitive to potential political instability and fragile public finances.
Borean said the first-quarter regulatory hit on the solvency ratio would be a one-off for the year. He said the next adoption of regulatory changes was scheduled for the first quarter of 2020 with an estimated impact on the solvency ratio of less than 2 percentage points.
The insurer said on Thursday net profit rose to 744 million euros ($834 million) in the three months to the end of March, boosted by a capital gain of 128 million from the sale of Belgian assets.
Analysts were looking on average for a net profit of 715 million euros.
In the past three years, Generali has raised 1.5 billion euros from disposals, exiting a dozen non-strategic countries. It has also raised 1.9 billion euros from the sale of its German life insurance business Generali Leben.
Operating profit rose came in at 1.35 billion euros, up 7 percent year-on-year- and above an average analyst forecast of 1.28 billion euros.
The combined ratio, a measure of profitability and financial health of an insurance company, stood at 91.5%.($1 = 0.8921 euros) (Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro; editing by Valentina Za and Jane Merriman)