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Swiss Re, Axa H1 results; Aviva mulls sale of Asian ops; Lloyd's ERS names CFO

S&P Global Market Intelligence offers our top picks of insurance news stories and more published throughout the week.

Earnings season

* Italy's Generali posted a 34.6% year-over-year increase in first-half profit, driven by growth across all of its business segments, and confirmed its three-year targets amid renewed pressure from interest rate trends. The Italian insurer reported a first-half consolidated result attributable to the group of €1.79 billion, an increase from the year-ago €1.33 billion.

* Willis Towers Watson PLC's second-quarter net income attributable to the company increased to $138 million, or $1.06 per share, from $58 million, or 44 cents per share, a year earlier. Adjusted net income ticked up to $232 million, or $1.78 per share, from $225 million, or $1.70 per share, in the prior-year period.

* Swiss Re AG reported a consolidated group net income of $953 million in the first half, down from $1.01 billion in the year-ago period. The Swiss reinsurance group's annualized return on equity stood at 6.6% in the half, up from 6.3% a year earlier.

* U.K. motor insurer Sabre Insurance Group PLC's reported first half adjusted profit after tax of £30.5 million in 2019, down from £32.5 million in the prior year. The board has declared an interim ordinary dividend of 4.7 pence per share for the first half, down from the previous payout of 7.2 pence per share in the year-ago period.

* U.K.-based Direct Line Insurance Group PLC's first-half consolidated profit attributable to owners of the company dropped year over year to £211.8 million from £238.0 million. EPS for the period was 14.7 pence, compared to the year-ago 16.6 pence.

* French insurer AXA SA's first-half net income fell 17% to €2.33 billion from €2.80 billion a year ago. Net income per share declined on a yearly basis to 92 cents from €1.12.

* RSA Insurance Group PLC reported first-half statutory profit attributable to equity holders of the parent company of £170 million, down from £235 million a year ago. EPS was 15.3 pence, down from 21.6 pence in the first half of 2018.

M&A corner

* Aviva PLC is exploring strategic options, including a possible sale, for its Asian business, The Business Times (Singapore) reported. Aviva's rival insurers have expressed interest in the Asian business, which could be valued at about US$3 billion to US$4 billion.

* Spanish insurance group Mapfre SA and the French division of Swiss insurance giant Swiss Life Holding AG acquired nine buildings in Paris for €296.1 million.

* Generali's recently announced deal for Portuguese insurer Seguradoras Unidas SA is a "low-risk acquisition" according to the Italian insurance group's general manager, Frédéric de Courtois. The transaction, announced July 19, will make Generali the second-largest nonlife insurer in Portugal.

* Willis Towers Watson PLC acquired Risk Capital Advisors Pty. Ltd., effective immediately. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Executive moves

* Lloyd's of London motor insurer ERS said Chief Risk Officer Ryan Warren will become CFO, subject to regulatory approval. The move was due to CFO Katie Wade's decision to step away from the corporate world.

* Zurich Insurance Group AG has appointed Neil Freshwater CEO of Dublin-based subsidiary Zurich Insurance PLC, The Insurance Insider reported.

In other news

* Swiss Re AG CEO Christian Mumenthaler said the company is "fully committed" to its loss-making corporate solutions business unit after announcing a raft of fixes to turn it around. To hit that figure, Swiss Re will cut around $900 million of corporate solutions' underperforming business by 2021.

* RSA Insurance Group PLC's commercial lines business "still is a headache," according to CEO Stephen Hester, but there are signs of improvement.

Featured during the week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

Cyber insurance seeing 'good growth' outside US, UK, says Willis CEO: The emerging cyber insurance markets of western Europe, Latin America and south-east Asia are now adding to overall growth in the relatively new insurance product line, according to John Haley.

Insurance regulators mull crackdown on ratings of CLO 'combo' notes: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is concerned that collateralized loan obligation notes that blend rated CLO tranches with riskier equity conceal ratings arbitrage and obscure potential risks.

Axa XL on track to contribute €1.4B to group by 2020 after 'excellent' H1: Group CFO Gérald Harlin said the effect of large losses in the first half would be "more or less neutral" because of reserve releases set aside for 2018's Hurricane Michael and the California wildfires.