Zurich Group's life new business annual premium equivalent (APE) sales returned to growth, with an 11% increase on a like-for-like basis, the Swiss-headquartered international insurer reported today (12 August) in its half year results.

The rise in sales reflected favourable growth momentum in unit-linked business and protection products, together with the corporate savings business, accounting for 90% of APE sales over the first half of the year, it said.

In EMEA, APE sales increased by 14% on a like-for-like basis, mainly driven by strong growth of unit-linked business in Ireland and Italy, and good sales of protection products in Spain, UK and Switzerland.

APE sales in Latin America increased 11% on a like-for-like basis, reflecting higher sales volumes of individual protection products at Zurich Santander and favorable growth of unit-linked business in Chile and Brazil.

In Asia Pacific, lower sales in Australia, Japan and Indonesia led to a decline of 11% on a like-for-like basis. The decline in Australia was due to repricing actions to improve margins, Zurich said.

New business value (NBV) rose 37% on a like-for-like3 basis, driven by a more favourable sales mix and higher volumes in EMEA and Latin America. On a reported basis NBV improved by 44%.

The new business margin improved to an attractive level of 30.5% as reported and on a like-for-like basis.

Group chief executive Mario Greco said: "We achieved outstanding results in the first six months of 2021 with profits back to the levels of 2019, when we reported our best first half in a decade.

This is a remarkable achievement considering the elevated natural catastrophe losses in the period and the ongoing public health crisis.

Our first-half performance is the result of the focused execution of our strategy, with contributions from all parts of the business."

He added: "Our combined ratio in property and casualty insurance, now at its lowest in more than 20 years, is testament to the improvements
made to underwriting since 2016.

And we added more than 600,000 retail customers during a period of continued uncertainty and restrictions related to the pandemic.

In our life business, margins improved as we continued to focus on protection and capital-light savings products, while the Farmers Exchanges benefited from efforts to diversify and strengthen distribution channels."