Insurer Travelers profit falls on hurricane costs, lower investment returns

Oct 19 (Reuters) - Property and casualty insurer Travelers Companies Inc (TRV.N) reported a 20% fall in quarterly profit on Wednesday, hurt by hurricane-related claims and lower returns on its investments.

Hurricanes Ian and Fiona, as well as severe storms in many U.S. regions, pushed the insurer's pretax catastrophe losses to $512 million from $501 million last year.

Still, strong premiums growth helped the company surpass Wall Street targets for profit in the third quarter, sending its shares up 1.2% in premarket trade.

New York-based Travelers, often seen as a bellwether for the insurance sector as it typically reports before its industry peers, posted record net written premiums growth of 10% to $9.2 billion, with business, bond and specialty and personal insurance lines clocking growth.

"We are pleased to report solid third-quarter 2022 results, particularly in light of significant industry-wide losses from Hurricane Ian," Chief Executive Alan Schnitzer said in a statement.

Insurers are bracing for a hit of up to $57 billion from Hurricane Ian in Florida and South Carolina, risk modeling firm Verisk said earlier this month. read more

Industry experts already expect the hurricane impact to push insurers into bankruptcy, homeowners into delinquency and make insurance less accessible in regions such as Florida.

The insurance industry also faces hefty claims from the Ukraine crisis and greater uncertainty brought on by higher claims costs from inflation.

Travelers said pretax net investment income dropped 23% to $593 million.

The company's core income fell to $526 million, or $2.20 per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, from $655 million, or $2.60 per share, a year earlier.

That was higher than analysts' expectations of $1.56 per share, according to Refinitiv.

It reported a combined ratio of 98.2%, compared with 98.6% a year earlier. A ratio below 100% means the insurer earned more in premiums than it paid out in claims.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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