* Q1 net profit falls to $429 mln vs consensus $657 mln
* Large claims for natural and man-made disasters weigh
* Readies IPO for British ReAssure business but open to trade sale (Adds CFO comments, market reaction)
By Michael Shields
ZURICH, May 3 (Reuters) - Reinsurer Swiss Re AG’s reported an unexpected 6 percent fall in quarterly net profit on Friday as claims from large losses offset higher net premiums and a solid return on investments.
Net profit came in at $429 million, below the $657 million market consensus compiled www.swissre.com/dam/jcr:c88bcc1f-9836-4ede-b3c6-540c7df2fa01/q1-2019-published-versus-consensus-table.pdf by the global insurance and reinsurance giant.
Claims from large natural catastrophes and man-made losses included $210 million from North Queensland floods in Australia, Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, and $90 million from the Ethiopian Airlines crash and subsequent grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX fleet.
Late claims from prior-year events, mainly from Typhoon Jebi, also weighed, it added.
Its shares fell 3.5 percent in early trade. ZKB analysts noted that profit was worse-than-expected despite good results from life and health reinsurance and a 4.5 percent return on investment.
Finance chief John Dacey said the $90 million hit from the Boeing crash was Swiss Re’s best estimate of its exposure while it tries to work out more details.
“Our team has done the best they can in working with other insurers that are on risk here, looking at the policies that Boeing has to try to estimate how much of those policies are likely to be paid out,” he told reporters on a call.
It remained unclear what potential damages airlines may claim from Boeing for not being able to manage their own fleets. Swiss Re’s in-house aviation experts were talking with Boeing and other insured parties including the lead insurers to try to get the best estimate of the damage, he said.
Liability claims related to the Ethiopian crash and fleet grounding could be the largest non-war aviation reinsurance claim on record, broker Willis Re said last month.
The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 on March 10 killed 157 passengers and crew, the second deadly crash involving a Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 airliner in five months.
In other news, Swiss Re was pressing ahead with preparations to float British closed-book business ReAssure but remains open to a last-minute trade sale, Dacey said.
Swiss Re said it was upbeat for its property and casualty business while life and health continued to perform strongly. But its corporate solutions segment, which made a loss in the first quarter, continued to present challenges. The group was taking measures to address performance issues there during a review due to wrap up in the second quarter.
The first tranche of a share buyback programme worth up to 1 billion Swiss francs ($980.7 million) would launch on May 6. ($1 = 1.0197 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Rashmi Aich and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)