* Group loss 39 mln crowns vs 67 mln loss avg f’cast
* Says improvement programme ahead of schedule in H1
(Adds details, quotes)
OSLO, July 15 (Reuters) - Norwegian insurer Storebrand STB.OL slid into the red in the second quarter due to wobbly financial markets, but beat analyst expectations as its cost cuts and revenue boost plan ran ahead of schedule.
The group loss reached 39 million Norwegian crowns ($6.2 million) for April-June, compared with a 505 million profit a year ago and an average forecast for a 67 million loss in a Reuters poll of 10 analysts.
After a steep slide at the end of June which hit second-quarter results, Norwegian stocks recovered ground in July.
“In a quarter affected by falls in equity markets, the customers’ return was competitive and the development of the business areas positive,” Chief Executive Idar Kreutzer said in a statement.
“Improving operations in the group is strengthening the quality of the underlying earnings and having a good effect on the results. The work will continue at full strength.”
Storebrand’s operational improvement programme realised 270 million crowns in reduced costs and improved earnings in the first half of 2010, above the 240 million target.
For the full year, the target is 550 million crowns and an accumulated 1.1 billion by the end of 2011.
Storebrand is the biggest life insurer in Norway. The Nordic country’s biggest non-life insurance group Gjensidige has a strategic stake in Storebrand, which analysts expect to eventually lead to a tie-up between the two.
Trade in DnB NOR shares restarts at 0700 GMT. (Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=6.247 Norwegian Crown)
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