* Q1 property & casualty premiums dip 2 pct in dollars
* CFO sees positive pricing trend
* CFO says natural catastrophe environment was “benign” (Releads, adds comments from CFO, share price move)
ZURICH, May 9 (Reuters) - Zurich Insurance is on track to meet or beat its financial targets to 2019 and is seeing positive trends in property and casualty (P&C) insurance pricing.
Europe’s fifth-biggest insurer made the forecast on Thursday despite a 2 percent fall in P&C gross written premiums in dollar terms to $9.18 billion in the first quarter as a result of currency movements and the disposal of its ADAC business.
Prices increased around 2 percent, Zurich said, adding that it had been a “relatively benign” quarter for natural catastrophes although it gave no profit figures.
Its shares fell 0.9 percent in early trading while the European insurance sector index dropped 1.2 percent.
Life annual premium equivalent (APE) fell a reported 6 percent to $1.18 billion, also hit by the dollar’s strength.
Zurich Chief Financial Officer George Quinn had said in February he expected the group’s top line to be flat this year, with a last tranche of about $400 million in savings the main earnings driver.
Quinn said on Thursday P&C pricing had started to slow late last year after peaking at around 3 percent in the second quarter of 2018. It was back to the mid-to-lower 2 percent range in the first quarter, helped especially by business in North America, where pricing was up more than 4 percent.
“If this trend continues it does offer the potential to see some meaningful improvement in profitability,” Quinn said on a media conference call following the results.
He declined to comment on the impact of natural catastrophes on quarterly profit, but said:
“If you look across the industry in general the quarter has been relatively benign. You haven’t seen the scale of events that say we saw for example in Q3 last year.” (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Silke Koltrowitz and Alexander Smith)
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