ZURICH/LONDON: Zurich Insurance said on Thursday it expected to exceed all its 2022 financial targets as it reported a 12% rise in property and casualty (P&C) premiums on a like-for-like basis in the first quarter, helped by rate increases.

Zurich, Europe's fifth-largest insurer, said P&C premiums rose to $12 billion, while life insurance new business annual premium equivalent (APE) rose 14% on a like-for-like basis to $996 million.

Zurich set out three-year targets in Nov 2019, including raising its target for business operating profit after tax return on equity to more than 14% from the previous goal of more than 12%.

"The positive operating trends in the first quarter, together with the Group’s very strong balance sheet, give us confidence that we will successfully conclude the current strategic cycle later this year," Group Chief Financial Officer George Quinn said in a statement.

The insurer's Swiss Solvency Test ratio rose to 234% from 212% a year ago.

Insurers were hit two years ago by the COVID-19 pandemic. But after excluding the pandemic from many policies and raising premiums, they have recovered ground.

Rival AXA in February raised its 2023 goals.

Zurich said its direct exposure to Russia and Ukraine through its P&C operations and investment portfolio was expected to be "immaterial".

Many insurers have suffered losses from the war in Ukraine, with more expected still to unfold.

Swiss Re last week said it set aside $283 million in reserves for the war.


(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich and Carolyn Cohn in London)