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Swiss Re saw profits fall sharply at the end of last year and has cut back the volume of business it underwrites as the Swiss reinsurance group weathers tough insurance and financial market conditions.

The group also announced a further SFr 1bn ($989.2m) share buy back programme.

Net income at the Zürich based group fell to $517m in the fourth quarter, compared with $938m in the same period a year earlier. The group’s main property and casualty reinsurance division had been hit by large losses in the US and New Zealand, Swiss Re reported on Thursday.

David Cole, chief financial officer, said: “We were reminded in the fourth quarter that large losses do occur, but paying claims and helping to make the world more resilient is what we’re here for.”

For the full year, net income fell to $3.6bn in 2016, from $4.6bn a year earlier. Premium and fee income rose to $33.2bn from $30.2bn.

Christian Mumenthaler, chief executive, said: “Amid softening market conditions, we saw minimal global economic growth and continued low interest rates last year, on top of significant political developments.”

Meanwhile, Swiss Re said it had renewed just $8.5bn of the $10.3bn of premium volume up for renewal on January 1, 2017.

The company said: “Overall market conditions are challenging but rate decreases in property (including natural catastrophe business) and specialty have started to slow down. Casualty prices remain generally more stable with significant differences by market and product.”

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